Bamboo lemurs being pushed towards extinction due to climate change, warn researchers

New Delhi: The devastating effects of climate change have been responsible for the displacement and extinction of many of our animal species.

The magnitude of the impact is so extensive that the animals are disappearing at a fast rate and gradually inching toward extinction.

Many animals till date have made it to the list of endangered species and more additions have been made in recent times.

An international research team has now warned that climate change will soon push bamboo lemurs, one of the most endangered primate species on Earth, to change their dietary habits, causing them to slowly starve.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are only about 500 greater bamboo lemurs remaining in the wild, reports Xinhua news agency.

The new study, conducted by researchers from Stony Brook University, the Academy of Finland, Marie Curie Actions of the European Union and the Kone Foundation, was detailed in a paper published this week in Current Biology.

“For extreme feeding specialists like the greater bamboo lemur, climate change can be a stealthy killer,” Patricia Wright, one of the authors, said in a statement.

“Making the lemurs rely on a suboptimal part of their food for just a bit longer may be enough to tip the balance from existence to extinction.”

The study particularly mentioned Madagascar’s cat-sized greater bamboo lemurs that almost exclusively eat a single species of bamboo, including the woody trunk, known as culm.

Greater bamboo lemurs prefer the more nutritious and tender bamboo shoots and use their specialized teeth to gnaw on culm only when necessary, during the dry season.

Researchers first showed that the greater bamboo lemurs are equipped with highly complex and specialised teeth, just like giant pandas, the only other mammal capable of feeding on culm.

These teeth make it possible for them to consume and survive on woody culm for parts of the year.

To find out more about the greater bamboo lemurs’ feeding habits, the researchers spent hours watching them in their natural habitat in Madagascar’s Ranomafana National Park over a period of 18 months.

They collected more than 2,000 feeding observations in total. Those data showed that the lemurs spend 95 per cent of their feeding time eating a single species of woody bamboo. But they only eat the culm from August to November, when dry conditions make tender shoots unavailable, according to the study.

However, climate models suggest that the areas where the lemurs currently are found are likely to experience longer and longer dry seasons in the future.