Weakened taboos put lemurs at risk

Dec. 15, 2011 at 8:09 PM
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ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Lemurs in Madagascar are under growing threat with the erosion of traditional cultural taboos against hunting, wildlife experts say.

The situation has led to an unsustainable number of lemurs being killed for meat, a study by Bangor University in Wales found.

Malagasy locals have revered the primates, believing the animals were family ancestors, but the growing amount of outside influences has seen a breakdown in these beliefs, researchers said.

"When you have globalization and outside influences, traditional cultures break down and change faster," study co-author Julia Jones from Bangor told the BBC.

Taboos play an important part in Malagasy culture, she said, and lemurs have been associated with very strong taboos that traditionally ensured they were not hunted.

The influx of outsiders has weakened many of those taboos, she said.

"What seems to be happening in some of the remote areas around the nation's eastern rainforests is that a lot of legal gold mining is springing up, so people from outside are moving into the area," Jones said.

This influx of people, attracted by job opportunities at the mines, had resulted in an increase in demand for meat and small stores that that sold bushmeat, including lemurs, were opening in the areas, she said.

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