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My Mission To Save The Red Ruffed Lemur From Extinction

By on April 20, 2017 in EDGE Fellows, EDGE Updates, Focal species, Mammals

Madagascar is one of eight `hottest’ biodiversity hotspots countries based on species richness and endemism, (>80%), and on habitat loss (>90%). Yet, it is considered the world’s single highest priority biodiversity hotspot. The Island is shelter of 105 species of lemur that are all endemic of the country, among them 94% are threatened of extinction. Biodiversity loss and species extinction are mainly led by human activities.


Varecia rubra (Red ruffed lemur).


Masoala National Park was declared a World Heritage in 2007 by UNESCO. It is a peninsula located in the northeast of Madagascar that harbors the largest remaining rainforest patch in the country. Unfortunately, a recent study on deforestation and forest degradation mapping of the Protected Area revealed that between 2008 and 2011, the forest change rate was 1.27 %. This rate is higher than the latest annual deforestation rate for all of Madagascar suggesting that Masoala forest is currently severely degraded. In addition to human activities, extreme weather like cyclones are the main pressures that undermine the conservation of the ecosystem. However, increasing number of intense tropical cyclones are projected to land in the northeast of Madagascar as result of climate change.


Red ruffed lemur (Varecia rubra) is a critically endangered lemur species, and its current range is primarily restricted to forests of the Masoala Peninsula. Varecia rubra is an indicator, umbrella and flagship species that can provide information on the condition of the ecosystem and other species in the Masoala forest. Moreover, the species maintains important ecological roles within the rainforest as is among the principal seed dispersal agents for habitat restoration. Thus, its extinction will adversely impact the entire biodiversity within Masoala forest. Currently, the species is highly threatened to extinction.

I am Ratsisetraina, Rita Ratsisetraina. My current mission is to rescue Varecia rubra from extinction.

In 2001, I investigated the impacts of cyclone disturbance on the population of Red ruffed lemur and its population recovery four years later. Results show that the species is very sensitive to habitat disturbance and population recovery is very low and slow compared to other lemur species. Through my EDGE fellowship of the Zoological Society of London, my current project seeks to assess the actual state of the population of Varecia rubra in the face of massive forest degradation from human and natural disaster disturbances. Results from the present research will serve as baseline to further research and future conservation actions. Furthermore, results will be shared to a wide range of stakeholders, actors and decision-makers through a workshop to find together better strategies to better address biodiversity conservation issues in Masoala.

I am the founder and president of the Nosy Maitso Association (lit. Green Island). My professional goal is to keep the conservation of our extraordinary biodiversity, which is unique on Earth. To achieve my goal, the association’s main objectives including fighting against biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. Now, as I undertake my project on behalf of Nosy Maitso, it will contribute to my goal achievement thanks to the EDGE fellowship. I hereby express my gratitude to Zoological Society of London for allowing my project happen.

– Rita Ratsisetraina

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