The eecline of two mouse lemur species within forest rragments in Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar
Extinction represents the ultimate failure of conservation. In order to avert extinction, species or habitats may be shielded from human disturbance through varying forms of protection from small-scale community-based measures such as informal taboos to national and international initiatives such as national parks. The efficacy of these various measures has been fiercely debated by conservation biologists with the ultimate goal of averting extinction. Here we report on the near extirpation of two large, charismatic primates from Ambanjabe, an area in the Western portion of Ankarafantsika National Park, northwestern Madagascar. Ambanjabe is a fragmented landscape containing numerous fragments of dry deciduous forest, surrounded to the North, East, and South by continuous forest. The matrix is made up of mostly homogenous anthropogenic grassland containing matrix elements such as isolated trees and shrubs. Based on surveys and targeted censuses conducted in Ambanjabe in 2010-2011 and again in 2017-2018, we show the decline to near extirpation of the endangered Milne-Edward’s Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur edwardsi) and the critically endangered Coquerel’s Sifaka (Propithecus coquereli). Despite the legal protection of the National Park we found direct evidence of hunting of sportive lemurs and of a high degree of human disturbance within Ambanjabe. Our results suggest that even within national parks lemurs are at an immediate risk of extirpation and ultimately extinction in Madagascar. These findings provide further evidence that national parks alone are ineffective conservation measures and need to be combined with other forms of conservation action. We recommend more intensive measures to protect this and other fragmented landscapes such as conservation education, fire management programs, continuous patrols or monitoring activities, and forest restoration initiatives. We also suggest that solutions to conserve lemurs in fragmented landscapes need to address local human resident’s needs.