One of the rarest mammals in the world, the greater bamboo lemur may soon be facing another threat that could further reduce its already critically low numbers.
According to a new study, the species may soon have to deal with a reduction in their food sources, which is especially relevant as they only eat a particular type of bamboo.
The Greater Bamboo Lemur to Face a World Without Enough Bamboo?
This species of lemurs is native to southeastern Madagascar and was noted to be naturally synchronized to its primary food source. The species consumes one particular type of bamboo, and from this, it usually eats its tender shoots.
However, in between August and November or during the dry season, the lemurs start consuming the culm of the bamboo. This is its woody trunk that although more readily available, is also less nutritious.
Patricia Wright, a study co-author and Stony Brook University primatologist considers this a very useful adaptation to the environment. In the area, bamboo is both abundant, resilient, and also grows fast. It can also quickly adapt to the changing climate and weather patterns.
However, the greater bamboo lemurs don’t seem to be as quick to adapt as their food source. Based on observation and climatic trends, scientists believe that the dry season will stretch out and become longer.
Because of this, the greater bamboo lemur will likely have to start consuming more culm, which besides being ‘unappetizing’ for them, is also less nutritious.
Although the species’ teeth are adapted and used to grind down on the culm, specialists believe that they wouldn’t last too long if faced with only such a food source. They think that the teeth could start deteriorating even as fast as in just after a season or two, as the culm starts wearing away at them.
Salvation Still in Sight?
The study team claims that although the situation could become dire, there are still some possible solutions. One of them would be a growth in the population, which currently numbers around 600 to 700 wild lemurs.
The researchers are also looking to plant more bamboo and create a sort of ‘bamboo corridors’. These could start offering both food and protection. At the same time, some of the newly cultivated bamboos could be used by the local human population, and the harvest, in itself, might benefit from irrigation.
A study paper that details the findings and presents some of the future plans is available in the journal Current Biology.
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