(ENDANGERED SPECIES) – Lucky lemurs! Madagascar ring-tailed lemurs are so important to billionaire and Virgin CEO, Richard Branson, that he’s giving them an island. Moskito Island, Branson’s famed piece of land in the British Virgin Islands, will become a wildlife refuge for endangered species like the lemur. Introducing species to a new habitat can be risky to both the animal and the natural environment; while some criticize his generosity, Branson’s bold conservation move is worth watching. – Global Animal
Late last year, rumors swirled (and were later dismissed) that the current owner, billionaire Richard Branson, was scrapping plans for his eco-village resort on the island and had sold the place for $20.5 million. Now it turns out that the stage is set for it to become a wildlife refuge for endangered species.
First on Branson’s list is the importation of 30 endangered Madagascar ring-tailed lemurs from zoos in South Africa, Sweden and Canada. Later relocations of Red Ruffed Lemurs and possibly Sifakas may follow.
“We’ve been helping to try and preserve lemurs, and sadly in Madagascar because of the government being overthrown the space for lemurs is getting less and less,” Sir Richard told BBC News from his Caribbean property. “Here on Moskito Island we’ve got a beautiful rainforest – we brought in experts from South Africa, and they say it would be an absolutely perfect place where lemurs can be protected and breed.”
Of course, introducing a non-native species into a new habitat is always a risky move – and some conservationists are wary of Branson’s plan.
“Lemurs are voracious. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to introduce a new species like the lemur into a pristine environment like Moskito,” Dr. James D. Lazell, a biologist with Conservation Agency told the NY Times. “There is nothing like them that has ever lived on these islands.”
Branson insists that everything will be done to ensure that the lemurs adapt to their new home in a way that’s not detrimental to Moskito’s environment; including inoculation against the most common diseases and a quarantine “in comfortable cages” for three to four months. The animals are expected to arrive on the island in the next few weeks.
Should this conservation scheme prove successful, the billionaire says he’ll create additional “mini Madagascars around the world where species can roam wild.”