The endangered golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus) is one of the world's most endangered mammals. It has pale orange fur on the back with grey to brown guard hairs and yellowish underparts (4). The face is black, and drawn into a short muzzle, with golden eyebrows, cheeks and throat, and short hairy ears (4). Males and females are generally similar in appearance, but females are often slightly more greyish on the back (4).
The golden bamboo lemur feeds on young shoots, creepers and leaf bases of the endemic giant bamboo (Cephalostachium viguieri) (4), and has evolved to be resistant to the high concentrations of cyanide found within the tissues of this plant (6). Around 500 grams of bamboo are eaten every day; this represents roughly 12 times the usual mammalian lethal dose of cyanide (4). Main peaks of activity occur at dusk and dawn, but it is probably also active at some points during the night (4). The golden bamboo lemur lives in family groups of between two to six individuals (5). Females give birth in November and December (6).
Endemic to Madagascar, the golden bamboo lemur was first described by western science in 1987. It is found in the southeast of Madagascar, in Ranomafana National Park and was discovered in Andringitra Nature Reserve in 1993 (5).
Mainly threatened by habitat loss through slash-and-burn agriculture (6), although the golden bamboo lemur may also be under threat from hunting for food and for the pet trade (5). Recent estimates believe that there are under 400 individuals remaining in the wild (4).
In 1991, three areas of land around the village of Ranomafana were designated as Ranomafana National Park. Furthermore, the area in Andringitra that supports this species is a strict nature reserve and made the transition to a National Park in October 1999 (7). The golden bamboo lemur within these areas are therefore afforded a degree of protection (5), but slash-and-burn agriculture is encroaching at the park boundaries (6). Although Malagasay law forbids the hunting, killing and capturing of all lemurs (4), problems may still arise as the law is difficult to enforce (5). At present there is a very small captive population in Madagascar, but there is no co-ordinated breeding programme (5).
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