Richard Branson's Lemur Island: Invasive Lemur Plan
Lemur Island: Richard Branson's Lemur Sanctuary Plan
Multi-industry tycoon Richard Branson is planning to move 30 ring-tailed lemurs to Moskito Island, one of his private islands, in order to create a lemur sanctuary. While, well-meaning, the plan seems to ignore the threat posed to an ecosystem by an invading species. Lemurs in the Caribbean, anyone?
Richard Branson's team says that both the lemurs and the native species will be fine, but there's no indication of what makes them think such a thing. I guess nobody on Team Branson is familiar with the history of rabbits in Australia. Spoiler: it ends badly.
Conservation (and lemur) experts are split, describing the plan as either iffy at best or downright insane. Aside from upsetting the predator-prey balance, these primates also carry diseases specific to their region... which is Madagascar. That's 8,000 miles from Moskito Island. The lemur immigrants to Moskito Island, though will come from zoos in Canada, South Africa and Sweden, none of which are in the Caribbean.
What Do Lemurs Eat? (Hint: Mind Your Sandwich)
While lemurs are often filmed eating tamarinds, they are opportunistic omnivores. That means that they will eat anything. Flowers, herbs, insects, spiders, birds, lizards, even wood. You name it, a lemur will try to eat it.
How much damage could 30 lemurs do? Well, the short answer is "a lot", and that's before they start breeding, and, oh, they will breed. Lemurs reach sexual maturing by two and a half years, and have a livespan of around 15 years in the wild.
Ring-tailed lemurs are not even a threatened species, at least not yet. Branson says that the lemur transplant is due to overforestation in Madagascar. There are around 100 lemur species, all native to Madagascar.
Would it not be more straightforward to buy (or back a company that could buy) a chunk of land to keep it and its resident lemurs from getting plowed up? This would also keep the lemurs carbon-neutral.