A project to save critically endangered lemurs is making progress with the support of the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation.
A new school and research centre are almost built as part of an international programme to support the species in their native Madagascar.
The Foundation, a charity based at the award-winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster, has granted the project £5,000 year for the next three years to fund a conservation project.
It will take place where slash-and-burn land clearing and hunting have devastated lemur populations.
The project is run by the AEECL, a charitable consortium of European zoos and universities, dedicated to lemur conservation.
It operates in the remote north-west reaches of the Indian Ocean island, working with local communities to raise awareness of the importance of conservation, build schools, fund schoolteachers, restore forests and improve the economy.
A school at Antafiabe, on the edge of the Ankarafa Forest, Sahamalaza National Park, is 65 per cent complete and buildings to house research workers are well advanced.
In a boost to the economy that will encourage local support, the first ecotourists have visited the centre to witness blue-eyed black lemurs in the wild.
“It is great to see the project making progress and already making a positive difference to local life,” said Cheryl Williams, Foundation trustee.
“The scheme’s success is crucial to the survival of the species whose numbers have dipped to below 1,000.
“This project offers great hope for the local community providing work, schools and economic boosts from ecotourism and the combination will promote the importance of conservation to both the lemurs and the people.”
The park’s rangers raise funds for YWPF’s support of lemur projects at the walk-through reserve, Lemur Woods, which is home to red-bellied and ring-tailed lemurs.
The park is also home to some of the most endangered and beautiful species in the world, including Amur Tigers, Leopards, Polar Bears, Giraffes, Lions, and African hunting dogs amongst other animals.
The charitable activities of the YWPF support these endangered species in the wild as well as welfare projects around the world.