CITES: Appendix I
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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.)
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.
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
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
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).
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).
LINKS TO MORE ABOUT CONSERVATION
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 March 8.