These Adorable Lemurs Are On the Verge of Extinction | Smart News | Smithsonian

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These Adorable Lemurs Are On the Verge of Extinction

Lemurs are the most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet.

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This lemur lives at the Duke Lemur Center, a sanctuary for prosimian primates. Photo: Colin Schultz

Lemurs, a subset of primates that live only on the island nation of Madagascar off the southeastern coast of the African mainland, are the most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet. Ninety-four of 103 known lemur species are threatened, according to LiveScience, with 23 deemed “critically endangered,” an uptick from 10 species given that status when a similar report was produced seven years ago. LiveScience says,

Of all the world’s animals living on the verge of extinction, Madagascar’s lemurs are teetering closest to the brink. A new assessment of these primates reveals they are probably the most endangered group of vertebrates on Earth, beating out all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and bony fish for the dismal distinction.

The Coquerel’s Safika, for instance, is one of the 52 species of lemur that’s reached endangered status. (Nineteen species are at the lower “threatened” designation.) This one lives at the Duke Lemur Center:

This Coquerel’s Safika belongs to one of 52 lemur species listed as “endangered.” Photo: Colin Schultz

Those that live in the wild, though, face a series of threats, according to LiveScience:

Scientists attribute the rapid worsening of lemurs’ status to destruction of their tropical forest habitat on Madagascar, where political turmoil has increased poverty and accelerated illegal logging. Hunting has also emerged as a more serious threat to the animals than in the past. As Madagascar’s biodiversity is its main tourist attraction, the scientists noted that the loss of lemurs would only exacerbate the economic problems that are causing their demise.

There are 103 known lemur species. Photo: Colin Schultz

More from Smithsonian.com:

For the Love of Lemurs

Saving the Silky Safika

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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