Conservation Status

One of the overwhelming threats to Hapalemur and all other lemurs in Madagascar is habitat loss. Because of their dietary specialization, H. g. alaotrensis, H. aureus, and H. simus are particularly vulnerable to microhabitat changes. Protecting key habitats from human development, therefore, is paramount to these lemurs'

survival. Currently, H.g. alaotrensis, H. aureus, and H. simus are listed as "critically endangered" based on the updated IUCN Red List criteria, and H. g. griseus, H. g. meridionalis, and H. g. occidentalis are placed in the low conservation priority categories, largely due to insufficient data for accurate evaluation.

Urgent attention is needed for H. g. alaotrensis, presently limited to 220 km2, or merely 3% of the wetlands surrounding Lac Alaotra, Madagascar's most important rice-growing region. Agricultural expansions into the shallow reaches of the lake and hunting have decimated this lemur's population dramatically in the past decades (Mutschler and Feistner, 1995). At present, the population is estimated to only be around 3500-5500 individuals. Several conservation organizations, most notably Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, have demonstrated long-term commitment in the region by promoting awareness and maintaining a steady stream of research and monitoring programs. However, the survival of the Alaotran gentle lemur cannot be ensured without incorporating Lac Alaotra into Madagascar's national park system. A breeding program managed by Jersey Zoo is currently in place.

The conservation status of H. aureus and H. simus may be worse than previously reported (Mittermeier et al., 1994). Both species not only have restricted ranges but also occur in extremely patchy distribution (Irwin et al., 2005; Mutschler and Tan, 2003). Consequently, there is no reliable population estimate for either species. Deforestation and fragmentation continue to be a major cause for concern. Hunting and exploitation of bamboo by local people also have contributed to the general population decline. In the case of H. simus, a conservation action plan is needed immediately to develop management strategies safeguarding the species from extinction. In RNP, H.. simus may be the rarest diurnal lemur. Despite numerous survey efforts aimed to locate additional groups outside of Talatakely (Parcel III), only one other group was found in Miaranony (Parcel I) (Arrigo-Nelson and Wright, 2004; Ratelolahy et al., 2006; C. Tan, unpublished data). Currently, there are no viable captive breeding programs for either H. aureus or H. simus.

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