David Attenborough pays a visit to my favourite animals

22 February 2011

Seven years ago I was putting off the research for my university dissertation on the genetic diversity of lemurs. And I must admit that it took quite a few weeks of poring over academic papers and physiological data for me to fall for Madagascar's unique primates.

But now the people of Britain have David Attenborough and his army of BBC cameramen bringing them high definition images of prancing sifakas and agonisingly cute bamboo lemurs.

The nation has duly fallen for them. Even the hideous aye-aye is attracting admirers (please note that I was already in the fan club).

What I didn't realise 7 years ago was that Friends of the Earth were fighting a campaign against giant mining company Rio Tinto's latest Madagascan project – which is far from being a model for environmental best practice.

Hopefully some of the program's many viewers will be prompted to do something about the threats facing the lemurs (and Madagascar's other, far less interesting, inhabitants).

It's fun to gawp at them and wonder if they'd make good pets, but all too easy to forget the most important message - if we don't take urgent action to save them they'll be gone forever. 

The Andrew Lees Trust and London Mining Network are good places to start if you're interested. 

So although sitting in this slightly shabby office isn't quite the same as searching the jungle for a tiny mouse lemur, it's good to know that some of the people I now work with were fighting to save their habitat whilst I lay dozing in front of daytime TV.