Nov 13

The discovery of previously unknown populations of the greater bamboo lemur has led to this species being removed from the list of the world’s 25 most endangered primates, according to the Aspinall Foundation.

Greater bamboo lemur image

Greater bamboo lemur feeding on bamboo

Back from the brink

These recent discoveries, in combination with targeted conservation efforts, have boosted the known population of the greater bamboo lemur to more than 300 individuals. Given that the species was believed to be extinct in the 1970s, this news has delighted conservationists, particularly Damian Aspinall, head of the Aspinall Foundation, a charity which initiated a species survival plan for the threatened lemur.

Madagascar is the number one priority in the world for the conservation of primate diversity and the greater bamboo lemur was, until recently, a symbol of the threats facing this remarkable island,” he said. “Now the species symbolises what can be achieved with vision, passion and tireless commitment to locally relevant conservation.”

Forest destruction image

Slash-and-burn in greater bamboo lemur habitat

Not out of the woods

There is no doubt that these latest discoveries mark a step in the right direction for the future survival of the greater bamboo lemur, the largest of Madagascar’s endemic bamboo lemurs. However, the species is not out of the woods yet.

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, more than 90% of Madagascar’s lemur species are considered to be at risk of extinction, and the greater bamboo lemur is no exception. It is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with the destruction of its montane rainforest habitat in eastern Madagascar cited as a major threat.

The greater bamboo lemur, or ‘panda lemur’ as it is sometimes known, is one of three species of bamboo lemur in Madagascar. While all three species rely on bamboo to survive, they are able to co-exist by having specialised feeding habits, each eating different species of bamboo, or different parts of the plant. Incredibly, the golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus) is able to eat the cyanide-containing leaf bases, shoots and piths of new-growth giant bamboo, and on a daily basis ingests enough cyanide to kill three men.

Greater bamboo lemur image

The greater bamboo lemur is one of three bamboo lemur species in Madagascar

Madagascar – from carnage to conservation

Habitat loss remains a key threat to many of Madagascar’s endemic primates, with the vast majority of the island’s forests having been cleared and destroyed for subsistence agriculture. However, the good news is that conservation is now moving to the fore and becoming a focus for the country.

Thanks to involvement by scientists and conservationists, funding from donors, and leadership in local communities as well as the national government, Madagascar is turning into a model for conservation. Its deforestation rate has decreased significantly since the early 1990s, creating a glimmer of hope for the greater bamboo lemur and all other Madagascan endemics.


Read more on this story at – Greater bamboo lemur removed from ‘most endangered primates’ list.

Learn more about the latest list of the world’s 25 most endangered primates.

Find out more about the greater bamboo lemur on ARKive.


Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author