New Lemur Species Discovered in Madagascar

What’s got big feet, a long tongue, gray and brown fur — and is, potentially, new to science?

That would be a lemur that CI President Russ Mittermeier tracked down on a recent trip to Madagascar.

This “fork-marked” lemur is characterized by a black, Y-shaped stripe that starts above each eye. It has a whiskered snout and bright, beady eyes. And while we can’t be sure until genetic testing is complete, unique behaviors (like a curious nocturnal head-nodding) and a distinct color pattern suggest that this particular lemur is a member of a new species. (It likely belongs to the genus Phaner, which currently comprises four known species.)

It seems amazing that an animal the size of a squirrel could go unnoticed by science for so long. But that’s the world, isn’t it? There’s so much we just don’t know about it.

At CI, our scientists work every day to fill these gaps. We want to understand why, and how, the environment is changing. In fact, we need to know — so that we can be sure that our supporters’ dollars can have the greatest impact.

Occasionally, we find amazing animals like the new lemur. Or 200 species in Papua New Guinea. Or a new, cat-sized monkey. Or one of the world’s smallest frogs.

These creatures aren’t just fascinating, exciting examples of the Earth’s natural bounty (though, judging by the “awwws” and “ohhhs” you hear in the CI offices whenever we find new ones, they are certainly that). They’re also bellwethers of ecosystem health. When we find new species, it gives us hope — hope that the world’s ecosystems will continue to support the humans who rely on them for food, fresh water, clean air, a stable climate, and more.

We don’t usually do this on the CI blog. But it would be really great if you could, just today, consider a donation to CI to help us with this kind of work — not to mention all of our other conservation efforts around the world. Your donation will make a difference for people the world over.

This month, a member of our board of directors has made a generous gift of $1 million, which we’ll use to support our work. Now, we’re challenging CI’s closest supporters to match that gift. From now until the end of the year, every donation we receive from supporters like you, up to $1 million, will count toward this challenge.

If you can, please donate to CI this holiday season. If you can’t, we’re still thankful for your support. And either way, here’s wishing you a happy holiday — and hope for conservation success in 2011.

To learn more about the new lemur, read the press release or check out this BBC video footage of its discovery.


  1. Bruce Potter says

    For several months the environmental e-mail groups in the Caribbean have been abuzz about Sir Richard Branson’s plans (approved by the British Virgin Islands Government) to import ring-tailed lemurs to the tourist facilities that Sir Richard owns on two small islands in the BVI.

    In that debate we have seen many rejections of the idea because of possible, maybe, potential impacts that the lemurs might inflict on the local environment, but not one word of input from the scientific community that has been studying lemurs and the environment in Madagascar for the past several years. For example, no one know in the British Virgin Islands knows what or how much lemurs eat. Is there someone engaged in the Conservation International studies of Madagascar that could offer some input to the discussion? If not, why not?

    I suggest that someone either join or ask Dr. Ulrike Krause to post a message to the Caribbean Biodiversity list and the Caribbean Invasive Species e-mail groups on yahoogroups.

    Sorry to use this means on contact, but couldn’t find an alternative contact means on Conservation.ORG

  2. Charley says

    I’ve been in Madagascar for the last few months and it is amazing that new species of lemur, cameleon and birds continue to be discovered. I hope for the future that not only will these new discoveries continue but that those which are threatened are somehow preserved. It is always good to hear positive reports for every report that speaks out about the illegal animal trade and poaching as a result of the unstable situation in Mad.

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