INTRODUCTION: A French scientist and conservationist has been honoured by the World Wildlife Fund for his work in preserving lemurs.
GVs Lemurs in trees in Malagasy Republic. (2 SHOTS)
SVs Lemurs eating leaves. (3 SHOTS)
GV Natural History Museum in Brunoy with sign. (2 SHOTS)
SVs Lemurs in cage. (3 SHOTS)
SV Jean-Jacques Petter speaking to reporter in French (overlaid with shots of lemurs).(7 SHOTS)
SV Mother and baby lemur. (3 SHOTS)
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Background: INTRODUCTION: A French scientist and conservationist has been honoured by the World Wildlife Fund for his work in preserving lemurs. Primates related both to monkeys and men, lemurs are found only on the island of Malagasy off the coast of Africa. Professor Jean-Jacques Petter, who rediscovered a type of lemur thought to be extinct, was to be awarded the Wildlife Fund's 1981 Gold Medal in London on Wednesday (27 May).
SYNOPSIS: Professor Petter has been involved in research on the different species of lemur in the Malagasy Republic for 25 years. There are 20 kinds of lemur still in existence. But over half the original number of species on the island have been killed off by people and destruction of their habitat.
The professor breeds lemurs at the Natural History Museum's branch in Brunoy, a suburb of Paris. Here he can study the animals at close quarters, something which is almost impossible in the tropical rain forest.
In an interview, Professor Petter explained that he had established the best conditions possible at the museum to examine everything about the biological character of the lemur.
He said the studies were intended not only to add to the general knowledge of the species, but also to achieve a practical end. Last year an extensive conservation programme was launched in Malagasy involving the World Wildlife Fund. A Malagasy citizen was appointed as the programme's representative in the ..capital, Tanarive, and he prepared five projects aimed at helping to preserve the lemur.
Professor Petter said good relationship had been established with the Malagasy government, which supported the aims of the programme. The lemur faced the same problems as other species threatened with extinction in other parts of the world.
Tropical forest had traditionally been burned on the island to make way for crops; but increasing exploitation by man has speeded up the destruction of the lemur's habitat. On the African mainland, in South America and other parts of the world there are similar threats. In Malagasy, a big problem is the growing human population. But the government is gradually re-introducing laws for nature protection after ten years of political instability during which the issue was virtually ignored. One project is giving priority to an area where species are being threatened with extinction, including the very rare mongoose lemur found only in one forest.
The programme also involves the education of teachers, and through them children; the education of the public through television, and local education for people in the countryside and those responsible for nature protection in the provinces with mobile units showing films throughout the island.