Climate Change Is Causing Critically Endangered Lemurs To Starve


The already critically endangered greater bamboo lemurs are under threat of starvation. Climate change is among the factors forcing lemurs to eat nutrition-less meals.

Lemur And Bamboo Relationship

Lemurs have developed a lifestyle that perfectly matches the growth cycle of bamboo. On normal cycles, lemurs eat protein-rich bamboo until the dry season comes when they will settle on eating the hard, nutrition-less culm of the bamboo. Dry season normally lasts only from August to November, and the lemurs go back to their more nutritional diet once the bamboo shoots again.

However, researchers observed more than 2,000 lemur feedings over the course of 18 months and found that the threat of climate change is severely affecting the lemur population of Madagascar as rainfall in the area is significantly affected with up to three-month delays for the rainy season.

This changing cycle isn't particularly stressful for the resilient bamboo, but it is problematic for the lemurs because without the rain, the bamboo will cease to grow, hence leaving the lemurs forced to eat hard culm that isn't just nutritionally-deficient, but can also damage their teeth. Further, this affects both the adult and juvenile members of the species, so it does not help their already critically endangered status.

Climate Change And Other Lemur Problems

Records state that lemurs once populated most of the island of Madagascar but because of the effects of climate change, the population of lemurs now only remain on the eastern side of the island which has the shortest dry season. What's more, massive deforestation on the island forces the creatures out of their habitats and if it continues, the creatures will have nowhere to retreat.

As such, researchers are hoping to create bamboo corridors in the rainforest to supply the lemurs with ample food supply. Further, by working with the villagers to plant bamboo and manage artificial irrigation systems that would help during dry seasons, both the villagers and the lemurs can thrive.

The study was published in Current Biology.

Greater Bamboo Lemurs

The greater bamboo lemurs of Madagascar are the largest among the bamboo lemurs. As the name suggests, greater bamboo lemurs feed primarily on bamboo. They were discovered in 1870, but were believed to be extinct by the 20th century.

They were seen again in 1972, but the rediscovered species continues to struggle due to climate change and their rapidly changing habitats. By 1996, the species has been classified as Critically Endangered and they remain on the brink of extinction until today.  

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