About Pet Lemurs in Madagascar
What is a pet lemur?
There are over 100 different types of lemurs in Madagascar but lemurs are becoming more endangered and some are at risk of extinction. Madagascar is the only place in the world where you can see lemurs in the wild and many people come to Madagascar to see lemurs. While wild lemurs usually live in forests and are generally scared of people, a pet lemur is any lemur that has been illegally taken from its natural habitat or that relies on humans for food. Many pet lemurs have a human owner and they are often kept in someone’s house or are on the properties of businesses like hotels and restaurants.
Why are lemurs kept as pets?
Lemurs are kept as pets for many reasons. Sometimes they are kept as a personal pet by families and other times they are kept by people and businesses who charge tourists money to interact with the lemurs. For example, tourists will pay money to have their photo taken with a lemur.
Is it illegal to keep lemurs as pets in Madagascar?
Lemurs are protected by national and international law and it is illegal to remove them from the forest, sell them, or to keep them as pets. Most pet lemurs in Madagascar are illegal, including any pet lemur taken from the wild without a permit. There are approximately 30 facilities in Madagascar that have permits to keep captive lemurs for the purpose of rescue and rehabilitation, research, education, or for managed breeding programs. These legal captive facilities include the Zoo in Antananarivo and the Lemur Rescue Center in Tulear.
It is illegal to keep lemurs as pets without a government permit. If an individual or business takes a lemur from the wild, sells it, or keeps it as an illegal pet, they can be fined up to USD$200 for each lemur and potentially face jail time. The lemur will also be confiscated and there is sometimes a social penalty for owning lemurs as people in some communities consider lemurs to be sacred and it is taboo to take them out of the wild.
How many lemurs are kept as pets?
It is estimated that over 28,000 lemurs were kept as pets in Madagascar between 2010 and mid-2013. Most of these lemurs have been illegally taken from the forests and are illegal to keep as pets. For comparison, there are at least ten species of lemur that have less than 10,000 individuals left in the wild.
In what kinds of conditions are lemurs kept as pets in Madagascar?
Lemurs are kept in many different ways. Sometimes they are kept in cages or on a rope; in other cases they are trained to live near people and although they are owned by a human, they are not restrained. In most cases, lemurs are not kept in good conditions. Even for the ones kept in better conditions, their natural diet, habitat, and social structure cannot be properly replicated, which can lead to many problems for the lemurs. Many pet lemurs die within weeks or months after being taken from the wild.
A pet lemur should be kept in an environment that allows for a full range of natural movement (walking, sleeping, climbing, jumping). Lemurs should be allowed to move away from loud noises or from people and should also have access to shade and protection from the weather. Cages should be clean with no feces or rotting food. Lemurs should always have access to clean drinking water.
It is very important that lemurs are fed foods that are appropriate. There are over 100 different types of lemurs and each species eats slightly different types of foods. Lemurs should never be fed human food such as rice or alcohol. Lemurs should not be fed too many sweet fruits like bananas or mangos. Lemurs should have access to water all day.
Why is it bad to keep lemurs as pets or to interact with them?
In Madagascar, it is not good to keep lemurs as pets for several reasons. First, when lemurs have become used to humans (for example, when they have been touched or fed by humans), it changes their behavior and they are less scared of people. When lemurs are no longer scared of humans, they are more likely to be hunted. Second, there is evidence that shows that in areas of Madagascar where lemurs and humans often come into contact, there is an increased risk of disease transmission among and between lemurs and humans. Third, when lemurs are fed foods by tourist guides in national parks or by tourists in hotels, they are often given foods that they do not naturally eat in the wild (like bananas or mangos). This can cause health problems for the lemurs. For example, they can become overweight or have micro-nutrient deficiencies. Finally, when lemurs are no longer scared of people, it can increase their aggressiveness towards humans. Unfortunately, many lemurs are killed after they have been aggressive towards humans, and this includes lemurs that often interact with tourists in and around protected areas.
It is very hard to keep a lemur as a pet. Pet lemurs are often kept in sub-standard conditions. For example, when pet lemurs are kept in cages, the cages are often too small and not kept clean. In these situations, lemurs often do not have constant access to water and appropriate food.
Why are pet lemurs sometimes aggressive?
When lemurs get older, they become more aggressive. They can bite or scratch adults and children. Lemurs also become aggressive when they are kept in small cages or in stressful situations. It is very difficult to keep lemurs as pets that are aggressive.
Is there a connection between the illegal trade of lemurs in Madagascar and the ownership of lemurs elsewhere in world?
At this stage, there is no evidence to suggest that lemurs kept elsewhere in the world are being illegally exported from Madagascar. In other words, lemurs taken out of forests in Madagascar are being kept as illegal pets in Madagascar and are not illegally exported to other areas of the world. Lemurs kept as pets elsewhere in the world have typically been bred in captivity outside of Madagascar.
What to do if you see a pet lemur in Madagascar
If you see a pet lemur in Madagascar, you can anonymously report it to our project here. Our survey collects information and helps advocate for the better care of pet lemurs across the island. You can also report the lemur to the Direction Régionale de l’Environnementet des Forêts (DREF). You can support the rehabilitation of lemurs that have been confiscated from the illegal trade by supporting the following non-profit organizations: Lemur Love (US-registered NGO), Lemur Rescue Center (Malagasy NGO), and the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group (Offices in Madagascar).