Sir Richard Branson has backtracked on his plan to release lemurs in the British Virgin Islands. Here’s what he says on his blog:
It’s interesting how on occasions when you set about to do something for all the right reasons it can backfire on you.
For many years I’ve been involved in organisations to try to save our planets most precious species. A year ago I had Rob Stewart, a Director of WildAid, to Necker. WildAid does wonderful work trying to save the few remaining tigers, the sharks, the gorillas and the lemurs and other threatened species. (Rob also directed the wonderful film ‘Sharkwater’ about the plight of the shark due to shark finning for soup). Rob urged me to turn our Foundation’s attention to helping save the lemur by giving them another island other than Madagascar to live and breed on. He told me that “lemurs are some of the most threatened primates on Earth and their future has never been more uncertain.
I commissioned an in depth study of Moskito on its fauna and wildlife. …We then brought in lemur experts from Africa to see if Moskito was a suitable habitat for lemurs. Their conclusions were that the dense and tropical thatch palm canopy on Moskito was perfect and that they’d thrive on Moskito.
Then I woke one morning to a press onslaught from a gecko specialist in the Caribbean. “Lemurs are aggressive, omnivorous animals that eat absolutely everything. Introducing them would be an appalling idea. They would probably wipe out the gecko.” There would be “grave environmental problems”. This expert was certainly a gecko specialist but a lemur specialist he certainly was not. But the damage had been done and further inaccurate stories of disease and destruction started to worry locals. The only positive that came out of the global press hoorah to follow was that Russell Mittermeier, the world renowned lemur expert told me that in one week we’d done more to bring attention to the plight of the lemur than he’d been able to do in a lifetime! Maybe a little controversy was worth it.
Anyway since our original purpose is to save endangered species I would hate to be responsible for potentially damaging another species. So in the spirit of compromise and goodwill I will keep the lemurs enclosed whilst we get experts to conduct further surveys on geckos and particularly the tiny dwarf geckos that are found on Virgin Gorda and Moskito Island. If these studies indicate any serious risk to these geckos we will keep the lemurs in enclosures.
But last night conservationists said they were still opposed to lemurs being brought on to the island.
Trish Baily, a resident of the British Virgin Islands and an environmental campaigner, said: “I still don’t get why Sir Richard is being so persistent because no one has done the studies of what the lemurs will eat on the island.
“What if they eat the seeds and native vegetation that is the energy source of local birds and particularly migratory birds that move through the islands?
“We have enough exotic species on these islands. We need to control them and bring back our own unique biodiversity.”
Previous coverage of this story on Green Antilles: Richard Branson forges ahead with plans to create a lemur colony in the British Virgin Islands and In the BVI, Richard Branson given permission to import lemurs onto his private island, despite government agency opposition.
[Photo: via time.com]