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The Green Life: Voted Onto the Island: Richard Branson's Monkey Business

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April 22, 2011

Voted Onto the Island: Richard Branson's Monkey Business

Ringtailed lemur Celebrities, like everybody else, are often full of crazy ideas. Unlike the rest of us, though, many of them have the means to live out their fantasies of recording an (awful) album, publicly hatching from a giant egg, or populating some exotic destination with their favorite species. Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Group tycoon, has a long history of supporting environmental causes, but his latest eco-venture is raising some eyebrows.

He bought the Caribbean island of Moskito with plans to construct a luxury eco-resort, but recently announced that he'll also establish a preserve for lemurs, small primates native to Madagascar, where political unrest and development have destroyed much of their forest habitat. Though the project, spearheaded by Virgin Unite, is certainly well-intentioned, there’s concern about how these introduced predators may affect Moskito’s native biodiversity. The island is home to several unusual species, including geckos, iguanas, and birds found in few other places, many of which could make an easy meal for a hungry lemur.

Branson will start introducing several species of lemurs from zoos in North America and Europe this spring, and it’ll quickly become clear if his billions might be better spent somewhere else.

Weigh in: Is this just another eccentric billionaire’s pet project, or do celebrity campaigns have a place in environmentalism?

--Zoë J. Sheldon

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