14 October 2009

Death on the eighth continent

Roasted lemurs and criminal gangs exporting precious hardwood: this is the sad state of affairs for Madagascar's legendary biodiversity. Since a military coup forced the president to resign in March, conservationists and biologists have watched as loggers have stripped the country's forests and killed its animals for bushmeat.

Much of the foreign aid to Madagascar has been withdrawn and, without a stable government to enforce rules and laws, criminal organisations have been quick to exploit the unique animal and plant life of the country.

"It has been a gold rush for logging gangs and bushmeat hunters to do as much as they can before the government gets organised and puts a stop to it," says Edward Louis, a conservation biologist at the Omaha Zoo, who has been working in Madagascar for a decade.

In August, Conservation International reported that 15 bushmeat traders, contracted by a restaurant, were arrested carrying hundreds of endangered lemurs, which had been killed and roasted. "This happened in one of the country's best managed parks," says [ the conservation biologist Edward Louis]. "If it's happening there, I can't begin to imagine what is happening elsewhere.
-- Madagascar biodiversity under threat as gangs run wild.

Related item: Conservation targets too low to save at-risk species.

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