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Duke symposium to address lemur endangerment

The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium
The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium

The Duke Lemur Center will host a symposium on conservation in Madagascar and the effect deforestation has on lemurs.

Hosted with the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, individuals from around the country will discuss the challenges of conservation in Madagascar and how it affects both communities and lemur species. Monday’s day-long event will be comprised of experts hailing from different fields, including conservation, botany, economics and anthropology.

“What we are hoping to do is stimulate discussion on these issues between people from different areas—by getting this group of people together maybe we’ll develop some ideas,” said DLC conservation coordinator Charlie Welch. “We are not expecting to come up with one-line solutions, but maybe with a group of people like this together, we can come up with some ideas that might help.”

Participants at the symposium will discuss an array of topics, ranging from the challenges of conservation in Madagascar to the implications of combatting timber thieves.

Welch noted that there will be disagreements on current conservation efforts in Madagascar because different opinions will arise based on an individual’s designated field of study.

Sociologists who attend the symposium, for example, believe that conservationists have overstepped their boundaries and, instead of achieving what it seeks to accomplish, is hurting communities, he added.

One such example is slash-and-burn agriculture—whereas most conservationists maintain that the practice is detrimental to the environment, sociologists at the symposium will claim efforts to stop the widely used practice will hurt communities who rely on this traditional farming technique.

Lou Brown, education and outreach associate at the Kenan Institute and visiting associate professor of cultural anthropology, said the differing perspectives elucidate that issues in Madagascar are multidimensional and require studying multiple fields.

“You can’t stay in your silo and only study biodiversity or only study the relationship between society and the natural world,” she said. “You have to work in different disciplines or you won’t have a complete understanding of everything.”

The symposium will close with an open discussion on the topics presented throughout the day and where participants stand on varying viewpoints.

“It’s a very, very complex problem in and of itself and it’s good for people to see that,” Welch said. “Americans tend to oversimplify things into black and white where you’ve got the good guys and the bad guys, but it’s just not that simple.”

The symposium will run from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday in West Duke 101.


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