Perrier’s sifaka (Propithecus perrieri)
|Synonyms:||Propithecus diadema perrieri|
|Size||Total length: 85 – 92 cm (2)|
Head-body length: 43 – 47 cm (2)
Tail length: 42 – 46 cm (2)
|Weight||3.7 – 5 kg (2)|
Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).
The rarest and least-studied of all of Madagascar’s sifakas, Perrier’s sifaka also has the unfortunate title of being the most endangered (4). Its dense fur is uniformly jet black, apart from the occasional tinge of russet brown on the chest and lower abdomen. Deep orange-red eyes are prominent against the hairless, dark grey or black face, and the small ears are mostly concealed (2). The powerful legs are longer than the arms and enable Perrier’s sifaka to propel itself between trees whilst keeping its body upright; this highly specialised method of locomotion, known as vertical clinging and leaping, is characteristic of all sifakas (5). Although sifakas gain their name from the shee-fak call used to maintain contact within their group, sifakas are actually rather silent animals (5).
Perrier’s sifaka occupies a tiny area of north-eastern Madagascar, situated between Irodo River to the north and Lokia River to the south (2). This range includes the Analamerana Special Reserve and Andrafiamena Hills, and once also included the north-eastern limits of the Ankarana Special Reserve (4), but it has not been recorded at all here during recent surveys (1).
This Critically Endangered species inhabits dry deciduous and semi-humid forests, from around sea level to around 400 metres (2).
As this species has been rarely studied, little is known of its habits in the wild (4). It lives in small groups of two to six individuals and occupies a home range of about 30 hectares (4). Within each group, only one adult pair reproduces each year, with the infant being born in June or July (2).
Perrier’s sifaka feeds on a variety of leaves, unripe fruit, stems and flowers (2) (4), and as it moves through the forest searching for its preferred foods, it will maintain regular contact with other members of its group by calling quietly (2). From time to time Perrier’s sifaka will descend to the ground to drink water or to cross open areas between patches of forest; at such times the sifaka is highly vulnerable to predators such as the fossa and feral dogs (2). A distinctive alarm call is given if a predator, or human, is spotted, and all members of the group will rapidly gather in the surrounding trees, watching the predator individual, before swiftly moving away through the canopy (2).
Like many of Madagascar’s primates, Perrier’s sifaka is threatened by hunting and habitat loss. Suitable forest habitat is diminishing as a result of land clearance for agriculture and livestock, timber harvesting for charcoal and construction, and small-scale mining for gemstones (4), and even within a so-called protected area where this species occurs, an annual deforestation rate of 1.2 percent has been recorded (6). Whilst taboos against hunting once existed in many parts of Madagascar, the increase in immigrants without belief in such taboos has led to a worrying growth in hunting (2). Such threats have already reduced this species’ population to perilously low levels - in 2003-2004 it was estimated there were only 915 individuals remaining – and continue to push Perrier’s sifaka towards extinction (6). Such a small population is at great risk of problems arising from loss of genetic variation, making the long term viability of this species highly questionable (2) (6).
Analamerana Special Reserve harbours the majority of the Perrier’s sifaka population (1), although rather than offering the protection this rare species requires, forest within the reserve is still being gradually destroyed (1) (6), and this species clearly requires further protection if it is going to survive. Since 2005, a group of interested parties, led by the Monaco-based non-governmental organisation Act for Nature and the Groupe d’Etude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar, have been conducting a conservation and research programme for Perrier’s sifaka. The programme’s goals are to secure this species’ future in at least one major area currently without any degree of protection and to gain further scientific knowledge on this species that will help inform future conservation measures (7). The area between Analamerana Special Reserve and Ankarana Special Reserve is one area where forest protection has been strongly recommended (4).
To learn about conservation efforts in Madagascar see:
Wildlife Conservation Society:
To learn about efforts to conserve Perrier’s sifaka see:
EDGE of Existence:
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:
- Genetic variation: the variety of genes within a particular species, population or breed causing differences in morphology, physiology and behaviour.
IUCN Red List (March 2010)
- Garbutt, N. (2007) Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide. A&C Black Publishers Ltd.
CITES (March 2010)
- Mittermeier, R.A., Valladares-Pádua, C., Rylands, A.B., Eudey, A.A., Butynski, T.M., Ganzhorn, J.U., Kormos, R., Aguiar, J.M. and Walker, S. (2006) Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2004 – 2006. Primate Conservation, 20: 1 - 28.
- Macdonald, D.W. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Banks, M.A., Ellis, E.R., Antonio and Wright, P.C. (2007) Global population size of a critically endangered lemur, Perrier’s sifaka. Animal Conservation, 10: 254-262.
- Schwitzer, C., Arnoult, O. and Rakotosamimanana, B. (2006) An international conservation and research programme for Perrier’s sifaka (Propithecus perrieri Lavauden, 1931) in northern Madagascar). Lemur News, 11: 12-14.