Mar 1

Conservationists working in Madagascar have found new populations of the greater bamboo lemur, giving renewed hope that the species may be saved from extinction.

The discovery of these populations extends the primate’s range to more than double that previously thought.

The greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus) is endemic to the island of Madagscar. Fewer than 300 individuals were thought to remain, making it the world’s rarest lemur and one of the top 25 most endangered primates.

Photo of greater bamboo lemur feeding on bamboo

The greater bamboo lemur is the rarest lemur in the world.

Researchers from conservation charity Association Mitsinjo partnered with the Aspinall Foundation, Madagascan primate study group GERP and Conservation International Madagascar to study the species.

Dr Rainer Dolch coordinated the first population surveys in 2007, searching the rainforest in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena corridor, along the eastern coast of the island.

The team originally believed that the greater bamboo lemur was confined to southeastern Madagascar, until they discovered a new population in the Torotorofotsy wetlands, the largest and most intact natural marsh in eastern Madagascar.

Photo of greater bamboo lemur

The greater bamboo lemur is entirely dependent on bamboo for food, restricting it to small areas of forest and making it very vulnerable to changes in its habitat.

Last year, the team returned to the area having collected local peoples’ reports of both lemurs and their favoured bamboo habitat. They investigated isolated sites along the fringes of the corridor, confirming sightings of 65 individuals and evidence of the lemur’s existence in more than double the number of sites that were previously known to occur.

Researchers are now working with local communities to monitor and protect the rainforest-dwelling species from hunting and habitat destruction.

Photo of slash and burn in greater bamboo lemur habitat

Much of the greater bamboo lemur’s habitat is being cleared for human use, threatening its survival.

The greater bamboo lemur faces a number of threats to its survival, and human activities such as mining and logging are of major concern. The lemur’s dependence on bamboo as its sole food source also makes it particularly vulnerable to changes in the environment from habitat destruction and fragmentation.

Dr Dolch highlights the importance that local people played in the discovery of the new populations, and the crucial role that they will have in conserving this unique primate.

“We are closely working with local communities for the monitoring of the species and the protection of their habitat,” says Dr Dolch.

Conservationists hope that positive actions by local people will provide the lemurs with a brighter future.

The researchers’ findings are published in the International Journal of Primatology.

See more fantastic photos and videos of the greater bamboo lemur on ARKive.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

  • Roger Harris (March 1st, 2011 at 3:31 pm):

    Wonderful news! Thank you for sharing. Your readers may be interested to know in our bamboo lemur project at SavingSpecies. We purchase land in biodiversity hotspots, including Madagascar. Successes include reforestation of the conservation area, employing locals for fire prevention, marking the boundaries of the conservation area, and programs to inspire local people to engage in conservation of the species. We take no overhead (at all) for our programs. ALL funds go to land purchase. Readers can learn more about our bamboo lemur project and other programs on our website: