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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Species Fact Profile: Coquerel's Sifaka (Propithecus coquereli)

Coquerel's Sifaka
Propithecus coquereli (A. Grandidier, 1867)

Range: Northwestern Madagascar
Habitat: Dry Deciduous Forest
Diet: Leaves, Flowers, Fruit, Bark, Buds
Social Grouping: Female-Led Family Groups of 3-10
Reproduction: Breed January-February, females breed every other year.  Usually 1 (sometimes 2) offspring born after 162 day gestation period; infants cling to mother until they are 3-5 months old, infants weaned at 5-6 months old, sexually mature at 3.5 years
Lifespan: 30 Years (Maximum, Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Endangered, CITES Appendix I

  • Body length 92-110 centimeters (including 50-60 centimeters of tail), weight 3.5-4.3 kilograms
  • Fur is predominately white with brown markings on the arms, thighs and chest; back may be a pale gray or brown.  Small black ears and black face.  Males differ from females in have throat gland
  • Primarily arboreal; when they come to the ground, they maintain a vertical posture and move using a series of powerful leaps with their back legs, which may carry them 6 meters per jump
  • Groups are led by females; females remain in their birth group while males disperse at the age of maturity, and may change groups throughout their lives
  • Groups maintain territories, with a heavily used core-area in the center where they spend most of their time.  Territories are only rarely aggressively defended
  • Predators include birds of prey, large snakes, and fossa, as well as introduced species (dogs, cats, civets, mongooses).  Traditionally, it was fady (taboo) for humans to hunt sifaka, but this tradition is disappearing in recent years
  • Malagasy name "sifaka" comes from the animal's call "shif-auk!"
  • Previously considered a subspecies of Verreaux's sifaka (P. verreauxi), the two can interbreed
  • All Coquerel's sifakas in the United States are owned by Duke University, but are on loan and distributed to zoos throughout the country

Zookeeper's Journal: It's impossible to watch a family group of Coquerel's sifakas and feel depressed.  They are some of the most active, engaging, and playful primates that you'll see in zoos... and I'm not even a huge primate fan.  They are always on the move, but rarely touching the ground, richocheting from tree to tree.  It's almost a pity that they don't come to the ground more often, because their characteristic leaping - hind feet striking the ground, arms held elegantly up over their head - seems more like a ballet than a zoo animal's locomotion.  Even visitors who have never heard of sifakas will probably have at least met one pop-culture reference to them - a Coquerel's sifaka served as the mascot of the children's nature show Zoboomafoo.

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