New effort to help save lemurs on the brink of extinction

Bristol Zoological Society has today (Friday Oct 26) launched a new campaign to help combat the extinction threat facing the world’s lemurs, to coincide with world lemur day.

More than 90 per cent of the world’s 111 lemur species and subspecies — unique primates found only in Madagascar — are on the brink of extinction, according to leading primate conservationists.

Now Bristol Zoological Society is launching a fundraising campaign to build a new research centre in Madagascar, allowing conservationists from the Society to better study lemurs in their natural habitat, and to ultimately help save them from extinction.

A public appeal has been launched to help raise £111,000 to build the much-needed facility, of which 50 per cent has been raised, which has previously received public support from broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

The new facility, called the Ankarafa field station, is being built in the north-western Sahamalaza-Iles Radama National Park. It will include a laboratory, accommodation for researchers, a manager’s office, dining and living areas and a kitchen.

The long-term aim is for the centre to become internationally renowned for developing solutions to conservation problems and become a destination for Malagasy and international scientists. It will also provide work for local people as guides, managers and field researchers. 

Dr Christoph Schwitzer, chief zoological officer at Bristol Zoological Society, is a world-leading expert in lemurs and has been studying them for almost 20 years. He said: “Madagascar is the world’s most important biodiversity hotspot – it is hugely rich in plant and animal life, but many of the animals that live there are highly endangered. 

“Our new research facility will play an important role in allowing our scientists, and conservationists from Madagascar and all over the world, to study lemurs in greater depth, in their natural habitat, to better understand their behaviour and ecology. This enables us to work with local organisations to create informed conservation management plans to help protect them for the future.”

Many lemur species are at grave risk of extinction as a result of widespread destruction of their tropical forest habitats from slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging, charcoal production and mining. New research has also shown that hunting of these animals for food and live capture for pets is also a serious threat.

Dr Schwitzer added: “Every penny donated to this appeal will help us to get closer to our ultimate goal of saving some of the world’s most endangered animals, so we would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported this project.”

From the tiny mouse lemur to the iconic ring-tailed lemurs, these animals represent about 20 percent of all primate species in the world. Probably the rarest lemur is the northern sportive lemur, of which there are only about 60 known individuals left.  One of the most spectacular lemur species, and also the largest, is the critically endangered indri. The world’s smallest primate is the Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, which weighs just 30 grams.

Bristol Zoological Society primarily works to protect species such as the striking blue-eyed black lemur - one of the few primate species other than humans that has blue eyes. It also works to protect the Sahamalaza sportive lemur, the Madagascan sacred ibis and the Sambirano mouse lemur, all of which are threatened with extinction.

Bristol Zoological Society works alongside local people and helps them to protect their natural heritage through development programmes and conservation education. This includes the provision of schools, drinking water, reforestation and fire control.

To find out more about Bristol Zoological Society’s Madagascar project, or to make a donation to the campaign, visit our website

The Ankarafa field station has been designed by conservation scientists from Bristol Zoological Society along with award-winning Bath-based landscape architects Grant Associates,architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and BuroHappold Engineering, all of whom have donated considerable time, expertise, and support to this exciting project.

The lemur enclosure at Bristol Zoo Gardens is sponsored by Redmaids’ High School. Their sponsorship also helps fund Bristol Zoological Society’s vital conservation project in Madagascar, helping in the fight to save lemurs from extinction.

Bristol Zoological Society is a member of The Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens (AEECL). The AEECL is a consortium of European Zoological Gardens and Universities, who have joined forces to carry out conservation and research projects for Madagascar’s highly endangered lemurs.The non-governmental organisation was founded by the Zoological Gardens of Mulhouse, Cologne and Saarbrücken and the University of Strasbourg, and is based in Mulhouse, France. Today they have member institutions from all over Europe.

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