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Richard Branson plans island refuge for lemurs
Billionaire plans to turn islands around the world into safe havens for threatened species.
Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 9:49 AM
Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons
The billionaire entrepreneur recently announced that he will import 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 rain forest — we brought in experts from South Africa, and they say it would be an absolutely perfect place where lemurs can be protected and breed.”
This is the same 124-acre island that Branson plans to turn into a model eco-resort, with 20 villas and a beachfront restaurant powered entirely by wind turbines and solar
“I was terrified Moskito would end up in the wrong hands and be ruined," he said in 2007 after purchasing the spot for a reported $30 million. "I want to start from scratch and create the most ecologically friendly island in the world. Come back in five years and you’ll find a mini-Bali with a rain forest in the Caribbean.”
While the idea of also turning Moskito into a sanctuary for endangered creatures has heart, some conservationists argue that there's not enough science behind the concept.
“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.”
"I suspect this freakish island zoo is simply masquerading as conservation, and the real incentive behind it is commercial," wrote Chris Grinter on the site The Skeptical Moth
. "Over the next few years there will be a handful of “luxury, carbon-neutral homes built on the island.” A pretty brilliant scheme to incentivize the purchase of homes that undoubtedly will cost tens of millions of dollars each — and you can pretend to feel good about protecting the world while you do it."
Branson insists that great care will be taken in making sure the initiative does not spoil the fragile ecosystem of Moskito. The animals, which are expected to arrive in the next few weeks, will be kept in quarantine cages for the first three-four months; as well as "given every injection in the book" to prevent the spread of disease.
Should this conservation scheme prove successful, the billionaire says he’ll create additional “mini Madagascars around the world where species can roam wild.”
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