On Oct. 13, the Lemur Conservation Foundation collaborated with Ringling College of Art and Design to bring the first World Lemur Festival to Sarasota. The World Lemur Festival began in 2014 in Madagascar and has grown into a large celebration featuring dance competitions and parades.
“In Madagascar, this event took off like crazy,” said Lemur Conservation Foundation Education Manager Katie Virun. “We trying to bring a little bit of that excitement to Sarasota.”
Held at Ringling College's Alfred R. Goldstein Library, the festival aimed to raise awareness about lemur conservation. There are 111 known species and subspecies of lemurs in their native home of Madagascar, but more than 90% of lemurs face extinction in the next 20 years. Deforestation is one of their biggest threats. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, they are the most endangered primates in the world.
Virun said learning more about these creatures is an important step toward saving them. The festival featured activities for kids, a film screening of “Madagascar: The Land Where Evolution Ran Wild” and a lemur costume contest. Students from local colleges including Ringling and University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee submitted artwork for the festival’s juried exhibition.
Executive Director Alison Grand and researcher Erik Patel also gave a talk on the numerous programs the Lemur Conservation Foundation supports from creating community fish ponds as a source of protein to decrease the amount of hunting of lemurs to helping implement educational programs in Madagascar’s schools.
“We really want everybody to know the biodiversity in Madagascar is stunning, but it is in trouble and it’s a dire situation,” Vurin said.