The Canopy Project
Madagascar Lemurs at Risk
March 3, 2023
Madagascar, the Earth’s oldest island, is home to rich history and a landscape like no other. Within this east African island resides thousands of unique plant and animal species, 90% of which cannot be found anywhere else. Unfortunately, a spike in deforestation within the last few decades has threatened Madagascar’s biodiversity. Research estimates 50% of Madagascar’s original forest cover has disappeared since humans first made contact with the island 2,000 years ago. In a nation so dependent on its natural ecosystems, climate change has jeopardized the wildlife, the forests, and the Malagasy people.
The island’s rich diversity includes a wide variety of organisms. From an abundance of trees and vegetation, to thousands of wildlife species, including lemurs and chameleons, Madagascar’s unique ecological landscape is what makes its one-of-a-kind ecosystem possible. Unfortunately, changing weather patterns have made a number of the island’s keystone species vulnerable. One noteworthy example is the baobab tree, a tree so ancient and sturdy one was found dating back to 1600 a.d. But, the durability of the baobab does not protect it from the threat of climate change, as forest fires devastate the habitats.
The baobab tree is joined by hundreds of organisms in Madagascar who are on the endangered species list, like its primary helper, the lemur. Lemurs are responsible for pollinating trees throughout the island as they eat and digest fruit while swinging from tree to tree, spreading seeds throughout the forest and catalyzing new tree growth. Just as the lemurs and trees have created a symbiotic relationship, the flora and fauna of Madagascar work in harmony with one another to sustain the health and prosperity of the island.
Along with 150,000 other animal species, lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, meaning they can only be found on this east African island. The most endangered group of mammals, some estimate that 98% of lemurs will be extinct within the next 20 years. The relationship between lemur and tree has allowed the island to flourish for all these years, but human influence has begun to threaten the balance.
An island with eons of history and unparalleled levels of diversity, Madagascar is a place like no other. Yet, with the threat of climate change and deforestation more imminent than ever, we must do what we can to protect our forests. The Canopy Project works globally to plant trees in some of the most at-risk places, including Madagascar where we planted over 125,000 trees in 2022.