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Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

This sheet covers all eastern sifakas, or the P. diadema group, including P. candidus, P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. perrieri and P. tattersalli

CONSERVATION STATUS

CITES: Appendix I (What is CITES?)
IUCN Red List: P. candidus, P. perrieri: CR; P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. tattersalli: EN (What is Red List?)
Key: CR = Critically endangered, CR = Critically endangered, EN = Endangered, EN = Endangered, EN = Endangered
(Click on species name to see IUCN Red List entry, including detailed status assessment information.)

Propithecus diadema
Propithecus diadema
Photo: Tomas Junek

Between 2004 and 2006, the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group included both P. candidus and P. perrieri on their list of the world's 25 most endangered primates (Mittermeier et al. 2006b).

CONSERVATION THREATS

Threat: Human-Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

As is the case with most Malagasy primate species, habitat loss and hunting pose the greatest threats to the P. diadema group. It is important to note however, that there can be extreme variation in threats to the eastern sifakas by region, such that a threat that is non-existent in one region may be quite severe in another (Irwin 2006b).

Sifaka habitat can be lost or degraded in a number of ways including clearing for swidden agriculture, gold mining, uncontrolled grass fires, pasture for livestock, and tree cutting for construction materials, charcoal and firewood (Mayor & Lehman 1999; Vargas et al. 2002; Mittermeier et al. 2006a; Schwitzer et al. 2006). Slash-and-burn agriculture is more productive when the forest being cleared is primary forest and the resulting fields are only productive for several years, after which new forest must be cleared. The result is a very destructive domino effect of deforestation (Vargas et al. 2002). In addition, yearly brushfires are set to maintain deforested areas, significantly impeding forest re-growth (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989). While some species of sifaka, such as P. diadema are able to survive in fragmented forest, social group cohesion suffers (Irwin 2007).

The illegal local production of rum also presents a unique threat to sifaka populations. This manufacturing process threatens sifakas in three ways. First, the growing of sugarcane on fields cleared from forest for rum production contributes to habitat destruction. Second, rum distillation requires large amounts of firewood is cut from forests. Finally, the use of tree bark from sifaka food trees in the manufacturing process destroys species that are ecologically important to sifakas. Increasing production of rum for a commercial market will only further threaten the forest ecosystems of the sifaka (Irwin 2004).

Rahiaka trees (Chrysophyllum bonivianum), important food trees for sifakas, are often utilized as sources of latex. Unfortunately, while it is possible to tap the latex without felling the tree, they are often cut down because it is easier and more expedient to access the latex in such fashion. Other trees important to sifakas are also cut selectively for other purposes, such as for making bee boxes (Irwin et al. 2000).

Illegal logging of precious wood, such as rosewood and ebony, has emerged as one of the most severe threats to Madagascar's northeastern rainforests. Thousands of logs, worth millions of dollars, have recently been confiscated at ports of Vohémar, Antalaha, and Toamasina. Most of these logs were harvested from the two largest protected areas in the region, Masoala National Park and Marojejy National Park. Harvesting these extremely heavy hardwoods is a labor intensive activity requiring coordination between local residents who manually cut the trees, but receive little profit, and a criminal network of exporters, domestic transporters, and corrupt officials who initiate the process and reap most of the profits. The impacts of such selective logging include violating local taboos as well as ecological consequences such as increased likelihood of fire, invasive species, impaired habitat, and loss in genetic diversity (Patel 2007a).

Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

In some regions of its range, the consumption of sifakas is "fady" (taboo) (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989; Meyers 1993a; Mayor & Lehman 1999). This serves to at least partially prevent hunting of the species as it reduces the demand for their meat. However, even if consumption is fady, hunting of them is not necessarily so. In addition, outsiders not native to areas where sifaka consumption is fady often do not observe such taboos. As a result, because of the immigration of outsiders from other regions into those with fady against sifaka consumption, hunting is increasing in areas where it formerly was not a threat (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989). In addition, there is no fady against the hunting or eating of P. candidus in its range (Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Hunting of sifakas by gold miners who have immigrated to areas of fady has been reported, and lemurs are sometimes eaten daily by some groups of miners (Meyers 1996; Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Lemur hunting is undertaken in several ways, using blowguns, firearms, slingshots, snares, and box traps (Mayor & Lehman 1999; Irwin et al. 2000; Wright pers. comm. cited in Mittermeier et al. 2006a). There is variability in regional consumption in sifakas, and in some regions, such as near Betampona, they are a favored food (Welch & Katz 1992).

Per hunt, the lemur take ranges quite a bit, from only a couple of lemurs killed up to as many as around 70 individuals. Dead lemurs are often sold for around $4. Middle-class Malagasy in some regions consider lemur a delicacy and may hire and equip poverty-stricken hunters to procure the food for them even though plenty of other meats are available (Patel et al. 2005).

Threat: Pollution

There is evidence that climate change may be affecting sifakas by reducing rainfall and subsequently reducing the availability of food leaves which older mothers with degraded teeth are able to chew. Because female sifakas rely on leaves as food to produce milk for offspring, any reduction in rainfall affects their ability to produce milk, reducing the chances of survival of their offspring (Gross 2006).

Threat: Intrinsic Factors

Eastern sifakas are susceptible to a number of naturally occurring threats to their health. These include parasitic tapeworms (Cesetodes) in addition to a number of potentially infectious bacteria including E. coli, Enterobacter, and Streptococcus (Junge & Sauther 2006). Also, in one study population of P. tattersalli, 60% of individuals had a larval parasite which has the potential to be detrimental to their health (Meyers 1993a).

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Content last modified: February 4, 2008

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Erik Patel.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2008 February 4. Primate Factsheets: Diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema) Conservation . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/diademed_sifaka/cons>. Accessed 2014 April 16.