My Views on Lemur Island
During my recent trip to Madagascar (it is amazing, you should go!), I made time to go to the contentious ‘Lemur Island’ located in the Vakona Forest just outside the village of Andasibe (about 4 hours east of Antananarivo).
I must admit, I was in two minds about going. My background is in wildlife research, having completed my masters in conservation biology at the University of Bristol and spent over two years researching cheetahs and other large carnivores in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, plus a stint in the jungles of Borneo, habituating elephants for wildlife research. I have always appreciated the use of captive wildlife facilities, in educating the public (I’m well aware that I am in the minority in being able to experience these animals truly wild), but I have always tried to avoid them wherever possible myself. This is particularly true when it comes to captive wildlife facilities that allow you to physically interact with the animals rather than just observe.
So, when it was suggested that we visit the Lemur Island, it was with some trepidation that I agreed.
Lemur Island is a project borne from the Vakona Forest Lodge, a comfortable lodge surrounded by the rainforest. The story goes that the lemurs on this small river island are individuals rescued from the captive wildlife trade, and as they had been in the presence of humans so much, they could not be fully released into the wild. This could be true, but is it not better to euthanise the animal than keep it in an environment of stress for the rest of its life? These were my thoughts to start with anyway. We do occasionally have clients request to visit the island however, so I thought I would take a look and see for myself, so that I can better advise NWS travellers.
So, go I did. To be honest, on the face of it, it didn’t seem awful. The lemurs are on a small island, probably a hectare or two (though I do not know the exact measurements), which is far smaller than their natural ranges would be if they were fully wild. But they appear healthy enough – their coats are clean, eyes are bright and their belly’s full (though possibly a little too full – obesity is a welfare issue just as much as malnutrition).