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Sunday Species Snapshot: Coquerel’s Sifaka

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Coquerel's SifakaThese medium-sized lemurs, known for their delightful leaping ability, were only recognized as their own species in 2001, which undoubtedly slowed conservation efforts.

Species name: Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli)

Where found: Two “protected” forests in northwest Madagascar: Ankarafantsika National Park and the Bora Special Reserve. In reality, the legal protections the lemurs enjoy in these forests offer little actual protection.

IUCN Red List status: Endangered, with a population decline of more than 50 percent over the past 30 years.

Major threats: Coquerel’s sifakas face numerous threats that did not exist just a few decades ago. Malagasy traditions and taboos once kept this species safe from hunting, but those traditions have eroded as new people have moved into the region, leaving sifakas vulnerable to the bushmeat trade. Meanwhile deforestation for agriculture, charcoal and agriculture have whittled away at sifaka habitat, especially in the Bora reserve but also in some regions of Ankarafantsika National Park. Introduced predators such as cats and dogs have also created new threats for the lemurs.

Notable conservation programs:

  • Researchers just completed the first population study of the Coquerel’s sifakas living in Ankarafantsika National Park. The team, from Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência and other institutions, estimates that 47,000 sifakas live in the park, but they warn that continued pressure from hunting and deforestation could cause that number to plummet in the next decade or two.
  • Nine zoos in the U.S. maintain a Coquerel’s sifaka breeding program. Sacramento Zoo, for example, celebrated a birth in January.

Multimedia: Take a look at a Coquerel’s sifaka leaping around the entrance to Ankarafantsika Park in Madagascar as traffic roars by:

Photo by Frank Vassen via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license

Previous Sunday Snapshots:

John R. Platt About the Author: Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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