Is the ring-tailed lemur going the way of the dodo?

Social Sciences

Ring-tailed lemur in fragmented habitat at the Tsaranoro Valley forest, south-central Madagascar. Photo: Lisa Gould, 2013.
Is the ring-tailed lemur going the way of the dodo?

An alarming decline of the ring-tailed lemur throughout Madagascar has researchers calling for quick action before this iconic primate goes extinct. University of Victoria anthropologist and primatologist Lisa Gould co-authored a new study “Going, Going, Gone…Is the Iconic Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) Headed for Imminent Extirpation?” about the continued decline of the ring-tailed lemur population in Madagascar.
“Our paper shows the ring-tailed lemur is disappearing from the wild, despite the ability of this species to successfully adapt to many different habitats,” says Gould. “Ring-tailed lemur populations cannot survive in completely degraded habitats or under extreme hunting pressure.”
The populations in Madagascar are threatened due to extreme destruction of habitat, unsustainable and illegal hunting for bushmeat and growth of the illegal pet trade. Gould is calling for a detailed survey to be done of three national parks where the primate is still known to exist: Andringitra, Tsimanampesotse and Isalo. These parks contain large tracts of forest and shelter; but the terrain is difficult to traverse, so technology such as drones with thermal imaging cameras could be used to enter these areas.

The ring-tailed lemur is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. Even within national parks and protected areas they are not safe: in one national park they are now extinct, and at two others, they exist either in extremely low numbers or not at all. Gould and co-author Michelle Sauther from the University of Colorado are senior researchers with over 30 years of experience each with the ring-tailed lemur of Madagascar and they estimate no more than 2,000 to 2,400 still remain in the wild.  

The study is published this month in the journal Primate Conservation by the Primate Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission, a science-based network within the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

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Media contacts

Lisa Gould (Dept. of Anthropology) at

Anne MacLaurin (Social Sciences Communications) at 250-217-4259 (cell) or

Tara Sharpe (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6248 or

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Keywords: wildlife, anthropology, research

People: Lisa Gould

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