Richard Branson Creating Lemur Island

Billionaire giving Caribbean island to endangered primates

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 19, 2011 4:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – Mogul Richard Branson has a spare Caribbean island that he's planning to turn over to some of the world's most endangered species. The billionaire plans to create a colony of lemurs on the undeveloped island in the British Virgin Islands. The primates are rapidly disappearing from their native Madagascar, and Branson has secured permission to import 30 of the animals. He hopes to eventually have more than a dozen species of lemurs on Moskito Island.

"Maybe in time we could find one or two other islands in the world, preferably bigger islands, so that if Madagascar continues to destroy their habitat, the lemurs will at least survive somewhere on the planet," Branson tells AP. Critics, however, fear that the omnivorous lemurs will wipe out native wildlife. A biologist who has worked in the area for decades calls Branson's plan a "horrible idea," charging that introducing exotic species into any environment never works. Branson plans to meet with scientists opposed to the project and find ways to address their concerns.

I was really trying to come up with a radical idea to save them, Branson says.
"I was really trying to come up with a radical idea to save them," Branson says.   (AP Photo/Todd VanSickle, file)
Ring-tailed lemurs huddle next to a man-made baobab tree at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb.
Ring-tailed lemurs huddle next to a man-made baobab tree at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, file)
A two-month-old ring-tailed lemur plays at Chiba Zoological Park near Tokyo.
A two-month-old ring-tailed lemur plays at Chiba Zoological Park near Tokyo.   (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, file)
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