How Humans Effect Madagascar Lemur Habitats and Stress Levels
Primates in Madagascar are the most threatened mammalian taxon in the world to date (Eppley 2015). Human behaviors directly affect lemur’s natural environments, in return, effecting “the health and viability of wildlife populations” (Rakotoniania 2016). Lemurs are a highly diverse species that mainly preside on the island of Madagascar. They are nocturnal primates. They are social animals that can communicate through various noises, movements, and vocalizations. The country has one of the most threatened habitats for these primates, and is also home to a large density of lemur populations (Balestri 2014). Resource availability and increasing predation and hunting pressures and the spread of parasites are negative side effects of deforestation and alterations of lemur habitats.
Lemurs use trees for food and shelter, however, the largest of trees are often taken illegally for construction. The “best predictor of the population size is the total crown volume of large trees in the area” (Borgerson 2015). Decreasing deforestation rates and reforesting fragmented landscapes could help prevent extinction (Eppley 2015). Lemurs disperse seeds throughout the forests, so their survival is also critical for the existence of their forest homes.
Other modifications to the habitat are linked to subsistence agriculture and the illegal mining for quartz (Borgerson 2015). Local people focus mostly on farming but they do hunt lemurs to contribute to their local economy, however, “direct human impacts such as hunting likely played a major role in the extinction of primates in the past, habitat alteration may be more important in the present (Borgerson 2015). Lemurs are able to adapt their diet to meet their coloric demands, however, the “effect of prolonged food shortage will increase parasitism, high parasite loads could consecutively increase energy demands on the host” (Rakotoniaina 2016).
Ninety percent of Madagascar’s lemurs are vulnerable to extinction (Borgerson 2015). Extractive industries can have large impacts on ecosystems through not only losses of habitat, but deterioration of water quality, and an impact on floral and faunal life. When these industries are worked in these delicate regions with high biodiversity containing threatened species, it is actually possible to lessen the impact on the environment by developing programs to scientifically monitor and moderate the effects whenever possible. (Junge 2017). By working with local people on sustainable conservation plans and actions, there is still potential to change hunting and deforestation habits in Madagascar for the benefit of lemur population health and wellbeing.