By Erik Iverson
Scientific Name: Propithecus coquereli
Where in the World?
The Northwest of Madagascar off the coast of Africa
Head-Body- 40-50 cm (16– 20 in)
Tail- 50-60 cm (20 – 24 in)
Weight- 4 kg (8.5 lbs)
Unknown. Common in only two areas. Endangered.
If you’ve seen the movie Madagascar, you’re probably familiar with lemurs. Lemurs are relatives of monkeys that are found only on the Island of Madagascar. The leader of the lemurs in the movie is a ring-tailed lemur. One lemur that is particularly amazing is the Coquerel’s sifaka.
Coquerel’s sifaka (pronounced “sheef-auk”) is a beautiful lemur that lives only in the dry tropical forests of Northwestern Madagascar. These forests are warm like rainforests, but have much less rain and fewer trees. The sifaka is arboreal, meaning it lives mostly in trees. It has adapted to the scarce trees by being a good jumper. It can jump up to 33 feet horizontally from one tree to another. It remains vertical when it jumps, even springing sideways to stay upright. When the trees are too far apart, Coquerel’s sifaka does something very unique—it hops along the ground on both feet, using its arms to balance!
The sifaka is a diurnal (dye-ur-nuhl) animal, which means it is active in the daytime. It looks for food in groups of three to ten animals, led by a dominant female. This female-dominance is known as a matriarchy (may-tree-ar-kee). The sifaka gets its name from the “sheef-auk!” cry it makes to alert the other members of its group to danger. Babies are born after a gestation of five and a half months. They cling to their mother as she leaps about, and become independent at six months of age.
In a tropical area like Madagascar, there are really only two seasons, the wet season and the dry season. In the wet season, sifakas eat many different plant parts, including fruit, flowers, leaves, and bark. In the dry season, they eat only living leaves and buds. Isolated from mainland Africa, lemurs have evolved with few natural predators. Only the fearsome fossa, which you may remember from the movie Madagascar as “the foosa”, commonly preys on sifakas.
Unfortunately, sifakas and other lemurs face more serious threats than fossas. Madagascar is one of the most degraded habitats on the planet. It is estimated that only 10% of Madagascar's original forests remain. Local people, who live in poverty, destroy forests to create pastures and cropland. Trees are also logged to produce charcoal. Habitat destruction like this is the main threat to lemurs and other wildlife. They also face direct pressures—some species, like sifakas, are hunted for food or other reasons. Coquerel’s sifaka is an Endangered Species, and it is declining in number. It currently inhabits only Ankarafantsika National Park and the Bora Special Preserve.
There are things you can do to help lemurs and other wildlife in Madagascar. The first thing to do is to ask your parents not to buy cloves or spices grown in Madagascar. These crops contribute to deforestation in Madagascar and can be grown more sustainably elsewhere. Ask your parents not to buy products made from rosewood or other woods logged in Madagascar.
Next, with your parent’s permission, go to http://www.wildmadagascar.org/help.htm to find more ways to help out.
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All about Rainforests
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