Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli)

Synonyms: Propithecus verreauxi coquereli
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderPrimates
FamilyIndriidae
GenusPropithecus (1)
SizeTotal length: 92.5 – 110 cm (2)
Head-body length: 42.5 – 50 cm (2)
Tail length: 50 – 60 cm (2)
Weight3.5 – 4.3 kg (2)

Coquerel’s sifaka is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

Coquerel’s sifaka is a strikingly beautiful and highly threatened lemur (1) (2). Once considered a subspecies of Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) (1), Coquerel’s sifaka can be distinguished from other sifakas in its range by the deep chocolate brown shade of the fur on its thighs, arms and often across the chest (2). The rest of its soft, dense fur is predominantly white (2) (4), while the bare face, ears, and palms of its hands and feet are jet black (2) (4). The bright yellow eyes peer out vividly against its dark face (2). Like all sifakas, which are named for the sound of the shi-fahk call they make (4), this species has short arms, rather limited in their movement, but large, strong hindlimbs (5), which propel the sifaka as it leaps between trees (2).      

Coquerel’s sifaka occurs in the north-west of Madagascar, in areas north and east of the Betsiboka River (1) (2). 

Dry deciduous and semi-evergreen forest is apparently the preferred habitat of Coquerel’s sifaka, although it has also been recorded in coastal mangroves (2). It occurs from sea level up to altitudes of 500 metres (2).

Living in family units of typically four to five individuals, Coquerel’s sifaka lives in a home range that covers four to eight hectares, although the majority of its time is spent in a core area of just two to three hectares. The home range may overlap with the ranges of other sifakas, but rarely are there any aggressive interactions; instead, groups try to avoid each other (2). Up to 40 percent of each day is spent searching for food, with the sifaka rising early, foraging until a rest period around midday, and then continuing its foraging until early evening. It can cover up to 1,000 metres in a day (2), as it searches for leaves, flowers, buds, fruit and bark on which to feed (4). Leaves, buds and a small amount of bark prevail in the dry season, while during the wet season greater amounts of young leaves, flowers and fruit are consumed (2).

Coquerel’s sifakas typically give birth to a single offspring in June and July after a gestation period of 160 days (2). At first the young infant moves about the forest by clinging to its mother’s front, but after three or four weeks, it moves to ride on its mother’s back, where it may stay until an age of six months. At the age of one, Coquerel’s sifakas reach full adult size (2). 

Hunting is a great threat to this Endangered species; whilst local traditions mean that hunting sifakas is taboo, people who immigrate into the region do not hold the same views, and hunting takes place even within National Parks (1) (2). The forest of north-western Madagascar is gradually being destroyed by annual burning to create new pasture for livestock, and trees are also cut down to produce charcoal. Again, these activities which jeopardise the future of Coquerel’s sifaka, take place in protected areas (1).  

Coquerel’s sifaka occurs in two protected areas: Ankarafantsika National Park and the Bora Special Reserve. In reality, however, hunting and forest destruction has meant that these areas offer the sifaka little protection (1). Clearly, protection of these areas needs to be enforced, and the formal protection of other areas where this species occurs should be considered (1). 

To find out more about the conservation of Madagascar’s primates see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Garbutt, N. (2007) Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide. A&C Black Publishers Ltd.
  3. CITES (March, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Ankel-Simons, F. (2000) Primate Anatomy: an Introduction. Academic Press, San Diego, California.
  5. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.