The Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) is one of Madagascar’s most endangered lemurs. In 2009 the AFSGH*, also known as Helpsimus, was established to try to safeguard a population remaining in a few fragments of the rainforest in the east of the island.
The organisation’s aim is twofold: to raise funds for Greater Bamboo Lemur conservation in Madagascar and to increase public awareness of this lemur that is rarely seen in European zoos and that has a highly specialized diet composed almost exclusively of bamboos, which it eats in their entirety (leaves, stalks, shoots).
Since 2012, the Zoo de La Palmyre has been supporting Helpsimus by financing its “Bamboo Lemur” program whose activities are focused near Ranomafana National Park located in the province of Fianarantsoa, southeast of Madagascar.
Helpsimus works with fifteen villages around which lives about 1/3 of the wild population of Greater Bamboo Lemurs (450 animals), in an environment severely damaged by slash-and-burn agriculture and not protected since it is located outside the national park protection area.
Helpsimus’ activities are organized around three main axes:
- an environmental component that seeks to identify the main conservation areas and to find a balance between the lemurs and humans’ needs;
- an educational component that develops awareness activities for local communities and facilitates access to education for the children;
- an economic component whose objective is to improve people’s living conditions by building infrastructures, creating alternative sources of income and by encouraging better hygiene practices.
Other lemur species have been identified on the program site, including the Red-bellied Lemur (Eulemur rubriventer), a species hosted at La Palmyre Zoo and classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN** Red List. Helpsimus is developing actions to conserve it as well.
The Bamboo Lemur program now employs 30 guides from the local communities. They are responsible for monitoring the Greater Bamboo Lemur groups, conducting inventories, identifying threats and for assisting scientists during their study work. An educator is also tasked with organizing environmental education activities for school children and villagers living in the program area. Helpsimus also funds the construction of schools and classrooms, a school canteen as well as supplies and schoolbooks for more than 600 children. Finally, small-scale development projects are implemented: improvement of rice yields, fish farming and crop storage help, creation of tree nurseries and reforestation, training in the production of handicrafts …
*Association Française pour la Sauvegarde du Grand Hapalémur
** International Union for Conservation of Nature
© S. Meys, D. Roullet, F. Perroux.