- Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
- Order: Primates
- Family: Indriidaae
- Genus: Propithecus
- Species: coquereli
Primitive primate. There are approximately 36 lemur species native to the island of Madagascar, including the Coquerel’s sifaka. These stunning primates differ from other lemur species by their dramatic mode of locomotion: sitting upright, they spring through the trees using the strength of their back legs. This is called vertical clinging and leaping and it is a sight to behold! The name sifaka, a Malagasy word, comes from its distinct call as it travels through the treetops: “shi-fakh.” Female sifaka are dominant over males and get first dibs on food and mates.
Eye-catching coat. A mid-sized lemur; males and females are strikingly marked. Chestnut-brown patches on the chest and limbs “pop” against the white hair that covers the body. Bright, yellow eyes peer out from the hairless black face. Long, strong limbs and a long tail make their arboreal travel graceful, swift, and seemingly effortless.
Hear that? It can be hard to hear a sifaka unless it is threatened. Coquerel’s sifaka have a limited collection of vocal calls. They are most commonly heard quietly humming, though they give off loud sounds of alarm when startled. Loud aerial roars are directed at predatory birds, and the characteristic “Shi-fakh, shi-fakh, shi-fakh” is used to warn group members of danger.
Safety in numbers. Life in the trees protects sifaka groups from the few predators that share their forest homes. Loud piercing alarm calls warn of danger. All members of a group may simultaneously produce the explosive, nasal, hiss-like call “Shi-fakh, shi-fakh, shi-fakh.” This distinctive call, made by all sifaka species, is what gives the lemur group its name.
HABITAT AND DIET
Range. Coquerel’s sifaka live on the island of Madagascar. These lemurs reside in small forest pockets in northwestern parts of the country in the Ankarafantsika Nature Reserve and the Bora Special Reserve. Both of these areas have been damaged by annual fires set by nearby farmers. Hunting of sifaka by locals might occur in some areas, although in many parts of its range it is protected by taboo or fady.
Coquerel’s sifaka are most at home in the tops of trees where they can often be found feeding, playing, or sleeping. They gracefully leap across large distances to move from tree to tree. Though these animals spend much of their time in the forest canopy, they are also comfortable on the ground. Here they hop, like kangaroos, bounding off their back feet with arms raised high in the air.
More leaves, please! Leaves make up most of this sifakas diet, though they also eat flower, fruit, bark, and dead wood. In zoos, vegetables such as carrot, sweet potato, onion, and corn are also on the menu. Individuals lie on, sit on, or hang from branches when eating their meal.
Good morning! Coquerel’s sifaka begin their daily activities near sunrise. They often soak up the morning sun, basking in the tree tops with their arms stretched out before heading to find food. Small groups of males, females, and young move slowly through the trees in search of food. They may travel up to a mile before the end of their daily trek, which generally occurs before sunset.
Life in the trees protects sifaka groups from the few predators that share their forest homes. Loud piercing alarm calls warn of danger. All members of a group may simultaneously produce the explosive, nasal, hiss-like call “Shi-fakh, shi-fakh, shi-fakh.” This distinctive call, made by all sifaka species, is what gives the lemur group its name.
Family affair. Sifaka live in small, social groups of males and females numbering 3 to 10 individuals of varying ages. Aside from mothers and their offspring, group members are not necessarily related to one another. Members sleep and forage together; they even share territory with other nearby groups.
Females may mate with males outside of their immediate group. Males often roam around for long distances to find mates from multiple groups. Many “child care” duties are shared between group members. Infants ride on the back of mom or other group members, as they travel to find food. Between three and four months of age the infants’ are capable of moving about on their own, and mothers give them a helpful nip to encourage their independence. Youngsters become sexually mature around the age of 3.5 years. The oldest captive-raised individuals lived to age 30.
AT THE ZOO
Coquerel's sifaka will part of Africa Rocks, opening in 2017. Ring-tailed lemurs, a cousin of the sifaka, can be seen at both the Zoo and the Safari Park.
Loss of habitat is the main reason for declining population sizes in Coquerel’s sifaka. Unfortunately, little is known about actual numbers in the wild. Historical information on population size is lacking, though known population declines and decreases in available habitat occurring within recent generations lead many to suspect a population decline of 50 percent within the past five decades. Safeguarding of populations within existing protected areas and community-based conservation actions are needed to help ensure the sifaka’s (and other prosimians') continued survival.
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