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Lemurs declared most endangered vertebrates on Earth


Two ring-tailed lemur babies sit on their mother's back at the zoo in Frankfurt, Germany, on Mar. 30, 2010.



Lemurs are the most endangered vertebrates on Earth, conservationists have concluded, CNN reported.

Scientists attending a workshop of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission in Antanarivo, Madagascar, this week classified 23 lemur species as "critically endangered," 52 as "endangered," and 19 as "vulnerable" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species, LiveScience reported.

This means lemurs are more endangered than all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and bony fish, LiveScience reported.

The northern sportive lemur, one of 103 lemur species, is down to only 18 known animals, the group said, according to CNN.

The group’s previous lemur assessment, published in 2008, placed 8 lemur species in the “critically endangered” category, 18 in the “endangered” class and 14 in the “vulnerable” category, BBC News reported.

Habitat loss is the main reason for the disappearance of the lemurs, Conservation International said in a statement, according to CNN. Lemurs are native to Madagascar, and nearly 90 percent of the island's natural vegetation has been destroyed, much through illegal logging, which has increased since a coup overthrew Madagascar’s government in 2009.

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Increased hunting of lemurs has accompanied the deforestation, BBC News reported.

"Several national parks have been invaded, but of greater concern is the breakdown in control and enforcement," Russ Mittermeier, chairman of IUCN’s Primate Specialist Group and president of Conservation International, told BBC News. "There's just no government enforcement capacity, so forests are being invaded for timber, and inevitably that brings hunting as well.”

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