Madagascar is one of the two richest countries on Earth for primates and is considered one of the four major primate regions globally, comparable in many ways to the Neotropical region, continental Africa, and tropical, subtropical and temperate Asia. What is more, with five primate families, 15 genera and 112 taxa, all of them endemic, its levels of endemism are unmatched by any country; indeed, it is home to five of all 16 primate families and 15 of 81 genera. However, Madagascar is not just important for primates; it is also one of the highest priority Biodiversity Hotspots overall. It has already lost on the order of 90% of its original natural vegetation, and its levels of endemism at the family level for all organisms is unmatched by any other hotspot, meaning that it conserves not just unique species but deep evolutionary lineages as well. By providing this guide to facilitate the identification of Madagascar’s best known flagship species, the authors hope to stimulate interest in this ‘island continent’ and encourage everyone concerned about our natural world to visit this very special place.
In this guide, the team of expert authors explains the origins, discovery, study, and conservation of Madagascar’s lemurs, and provides species accounts for all currently known taxa. It is also important to note that we continue to discover species that were previously unknown to science. Twenty-nine years ago, at the time of the first edition of this guide, just 50 different kinds of lemurs were recognized. This edition covers 112, of which 53 have been described since that first guide because of the increased understanding of their systematics and geographic ranges. What is more, it is highly likely that other new lemur species will be discovered and described in the years to come.
The guide is illustrated with more than 600 drawings, photos, and maps to assist in field identification. It also introduces the concept of primate-watching and primate life-listing to encourage all of you interested in primates to see as many of these wonderful animals as possible in the wild and to help conserve them in their natural habitats. You, the reader, whether scientist, primate-watcher, budding naturalist, adventure traveller, or casual visitor to Madagascar, are making a very significant contribution to the future of biodiversity in this amazing corner of our planet. This guide aims to enhance your experience and convince you to visit this ‘Land of Lemurs’ again and again.