Monday, January 27, 2014

Not Quite Ready to Leave Madagascar

Last week we visited the Fossa of Madagascar. So after arriving and visiting Madagascar, and studying the Fossa, I must admit that I am not quite ready to leave. So, I’ve decided to stay one more week and bring you information about a critically endangered animal that lives on the island along with the Fossa. It’s called the Northern Sportive Lemur. What a funny name, you say. I totally agree.

This cute little guy was dubbed ‘sportive’ due to the boxer-like fighting stance it takes when threatened. There are approximately 100 species of Lemur and they all live on the island of Madagascar. What’s more is they are all endangered; their populations are all declining due mainly to deforestation by humans. Of all the Lemurs on the island, the Northern Sportive Lemur is the most critical. There may actually be fewer than 20 left.

I know that you are all familiar with these guys!

But this week we are going to talk about one of their relatives, which is critically endangered, and they are just as cute in real life. 

The Northern Sportive Lemur is a very small primate; in fact they are one of the smallest of the Lemur species, weighing less than two pounds. A primate is a mammal that is a member of a group of animals that includes humans, apes and monkeys. Fossil evidence has shown that Lemurs were once very large. In fact they may have been as large as gorillas. As the Lemurs evolved, they became adapted to living in trees, and therefore became smaller in order to move more quickly in their new arboreal (living in trees) home.

As you can see from the above picture, the Northern Sportive Lemur, like all Lemurs, has very big eyes. Unlike many other animals those forward facing eyes give them very good vision. They also help them to see at night. This works out very well for them because they are nocturnal (active at night).

The environment of Madagascar is very fragile. The island is about the size of France. It separated from Gondwanaland (a super continent that exited millions of years ago) about 160 million years ago. Thus, much like Australia, the life forms developed on Madagascar in a very different way than the rest of the continents of the world. The biggest factor was that it developed without the influence of man. Strangely enough, some plants and animals found their way across the Mozambique Channel, which separates Madagascar from Africa. No one is really sure if there was a land bridge or they arrived by floating on debris. As a result of this past history, everything that lives on Madagascar cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. Enter man…

…and the end result was the extinction of many species, and in our time, we see many animals that are now threatened with extinction. They are disappearing fast. The human population on Madagascar has increased and their need to survive has had a direct impact on the survival of the animals on the island. As a result of human impact, the island is considered one of ‘highest conservation priorities on earth.’ (Last Chance to See, Mark Carwardine, 1989, Harmony Books, NY.)

One of my favorite Lemurs is the Crowned Lemur. It is a beautiful lithe (agile, nimble) creature that is also a lot of fun to watch. I, for one, would hate to see the Lemur (all of the species) disappear.

Here is a video of the Crowned Lemur. I know you will enjoy it.

As always, my thanks to Arkive for some of the photos. If you want to learn more about Lemurs, visit the following  sites:

I do hope you have learned something new, and that you will come back again next week.

J.E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza, an award winning middle grade fantasy, where endangered animal heroes roam the pages.