Brooklyn-based Madécasse has created a safe haven for the animals in their cacao plantations.
Chocolate: Humans have been eating for almost 4,000 years and we love it so much we go out of our way to try convince ourselves it's actually the healthiest food on the planet. But, what if the delicious chocolate we crave could do more than just taste good (or possibly benefit our brains when consumed in the correct quantities)? For instance, what if your favorite chocolate also benefitted local endangered species? Well, that’s exactly what Brooklyn-based Madécasse is doing with lemurs in Madagascar.
“90 percent of Madagascar’s plants and animals are indigenous, but so many of the trees have been cut down and so many of the species are dying out,” says Madécasse’s marketing director, Sarah Shah. “So what we’re finding is that since we’re working with the farmers to plant more of these trees and replenish areas that are deforested, we’re also creating a natural habitat for endangered species.”
In a soon-to-be released study with the Bristol Zoo and Conservation International, Madécasse found that there are multiple species of lemurs living in the cacao trees from which they source their beans, including a few species that are endangered.
Additionally, while you might think that farmers would want to rid their trees of the lemurs, according to the study, "farmers were generally positive about the lemurs." And they may actually helping the cacao trees by "dispersing seeds from shade trees and eating insects that may be pests in the plantations." The lemur species that were found to be living in the planation’s trees included the northern giant mouse lemur, Sambirano mouse lemur, Sambirano fork-marked lemur, dwarf lemur and Gray’s sportive lemur.
Founded in 2008 by two former Madagascar-based Peace Corps volunteers, Madécasse produces eight varieties of chocolate bars with cacao beans grown on the island. That's what, Shah says, gives “the unique terroir and interesting fruity flavor notes that can really come out in their cocoa.”
Besides utilizing the unique flavor of the cacao, however, Madécasse’s founders also wanted to help Madagascar, which has struggled with poverty. To that end the company has worked to provide jobs to local farmers as well as by planting cacao trees in a country decimated by deforestation. And, as it turns out, they've helped some endangered lemurs along the way.