In the midst of what scientists now refer to as the earth’s sixth mass extinction, organizations like the Calgary Zoo work tirelessly in an effort to protect animals here at home and around the world.

 “With recent reports suggesting two-thirds of wildlife may disappear from the planet by 2020, it is clear there are many critically endangered animals at home and abroad which desperately need our help,” explains Dr. Clément Lanthier, president and CEO of the Calgary Zoo.

One of these species in particular is the lemur. With predictions that many lemur species could vanish from the wild by 2050, these animals are at a high risk for extinction due to loss of habitat caused by slash and-burn agriculture, illegal logging and mining practices.

The zoo’s newest habitat opening today, Land of Lemurs, hopes to make a difference in the conservation efforts of these unique primates. The habitat is an open-concept, immersive experience that will allow visitors to get up close to the animals, while also teaching about conservation and providing information on how people can help.

Madagascar has a very high number of endemic species and is the only place on earth where lemurs can be found in the wild, making conservation of the country’s diverse ecosystems critical.

Working with the University of Calgary, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, the zoo has developed a community conservation project to help protect lemurs and their habitats in the rainforests of the Kianjavato, Madagascar.

The community conservation model enables local communities to manage their own ecosystem in a way that both protects wildlife and benefits local people.  The zoo has successfully utilized this model in other countries in the world as it recognizes that putting communities at the heart of conservation is the key to success.

The lemur community conservation project has three key areas of involvement : funding community-owned tree nurseries, supporting local field technicians for ecological and population monitoring and improving the locals’ quality of life by creating sustainable job opportunities and funding green technology solutions.

Keeping the forests of Madagascar populated with many different lemur species for years to come through its new Land of the Lemurs habitat is just one of many initiatives the zoo is undertaking to help the organization realize its mission to inspire action towards the sustainability of wildlife and wild places.

Scientists estimate the current extinction rate is 1,000 times the natural rate and some believe it could rise to 10,000 times the natural rate. This accelerated extinction is due to various environmental factors including deforestation, climate change and over-fishing; however, through initiatives like this, experts say there are many reasons for hope.

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