Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Distribution of the critically endangered Coquerel's sifaka ( Propithecus coquereli ) across a fragmented landscape in NW Madagascar

Abstract

Habitat loss and fragmentation affect species occurrence and distribution in rapidly changing ecosystems. These issues are especially relevant on the Island of Madagascar where modern deforestation has been widespread and is ongoing. We investigated the occurrence of the critically endangered Coquerel's sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) in an anthropogenically modified landscape: the Mariarano region of north-western Madagascar. We surveyed four large forest sites from 500 to 5,000 ha and 16 forest fragments ranging from 1.5 to 19.2 ha in size. We recorded various attributes of the visited sites such as area, distance to nearest large forest and anthropogenic disturbance. We encountered sifakas in 10 of 16 fragments and in all large forest sites, with the majority of encounters occurring in habitat edge zones. Furthermore, we encountered 19 sifakas in the matrix such as in villages and fields. We found that neither human disturbance, area nor distance to a large forest predicts the presence of sifakas in the Mariarano region. Our results suggest that Coquerel's sifakas are able to persist in highly degraded and small forests fragments, but further research is needed on their long-term viability in anthropogenically modified landscapes.

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