Forest loss makes lemurs world's most endangered primates

WASHINGTON, July 13 Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:38pm EDT

WASHINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) - The lemurs of Madagascar - known for their haunting cries and reflective eyes - are the most endangered primate group on Earth, because they are losing their forest habitat, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said on Friday.

Conservationists meeting in Madagascar's capital Antananarivo this week said 91 percent of the world's 103 lemur species are now listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the global Red List of Threatened Species, a sharp increase from a previous assessment in 2005.

"Lemurs are in danger of becoming extinct by destruction of their tropical forest habitat on their native island of Madagascar, off Africa's Indian Ocean coast, where political uncertainty has increased poverty and accelerated illegal logging," the conservation group said in a statement.

Hunting is also a more serious threat than previously thought, the group said.

One of the critically endangered lemur species is the indri, the largest living lemur and one with symbolic value comparable to China's giant panda, the conservationists said. (Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Vicki Allen)