Scientific Name Propithecus coquereli
Conservation Status Endangered
Coquerel’s sifaka is predominantly white. They have chestnut brown patches across the arms and sides. Their bare skin is black and this can be seen on the ears, palms, hands and feets. The face is also bare apart from a small patch of white fur. Their eyes are bright yellow.
From the head to the base of the tail a coquerel’s sifaka measures 50.8cm (20in) long. The tail adds between 50 and 60cm (19.7 and 23.6in) to this length and is coloured silver grey or white. On average, they weigh 5kg (11lb).
A coquerel’s sifaka is able to live for up to 30 years.
Coquerel’s sifaka is a herbivore. Most of their diet consists of young leaves along with tree bark. Their digestive system cannot function without a sufficient percentage of their diet being formed by leaves. Up to 98 individual plant species are part of their diet.
They supplement this with flowers and fruit in the wet season with the diet expanding to leaves and buds throughout the dry season.
Madagascar is the native home of the coquerel’s sifaka. Here they can be found in the north-west of the island. Most of the population live in the Ankarafantsika Nature Reserve and the Bora Special Reserve.
They make their home in the dry deciduous and semi-evergreen forests as well as coastal forests and mangroves.
Breeding takes place from January to March. Females may mate with males from within their group or others. Males will fight for dominance in serious fights which often end in injuries. Only the victors of these fights will mate.
Following a 162 gestation a single infant will be born. At birth, it is black and furry and weighs about 100g (3.5oz) They begin life by riding on the front of their mother. They will cling here for 3 to 4 weeks before moving on to the back. The duty of carrying the baby may be shared between members of the family group.
By three months old they are beginning to move about on their own and are tasting food. They will spend 5 to 6 months riding around the back before they are weaned. To signal that the baby should stop riding on the mother’s back she will nip at it.
By 1 year old the young are fully grown. It takes 3.5 years before they are sexually mature.
Coquerel’s sifakas form family groups numbering between 3 and 6 individuals. These are known as troops and generally consist of an equal number of males and females. The individuals in a troop are not necessarily related. Females are the dominant members of the troop. When individuals move out of the troop it is normally the males.
A group will maintain a range of between 4 to 9ha (10 and 22 acres). This is marked out using urine and the scent from a gland on their throat.
Their main call sounds much like ‘shif-auk’ and is used to warn others about predators and ward off rival groups of coquerel’s sifakas. They also make soft grunts and loud wails. Another method of communication which is commonly used is scent.
Predators of coquerel’s sifaka include hawks and other raptors, constricting snakes and fossas. A major threat is humans through poaching and the fires which affect their forest homes most years. In the past, it was a taboo to kill any lemur in Madagascar but this tradition is beginning to erode.
Morning begins with a basking session for the coquerel’s sifaka. Around 40% of a coquerel’s sifakas day is spent searching for leaves to eat. At night, they will rest in the trees. Here they huddle together in a line to help retain heat.
Group members regularly groom each other. They have lower incisors which have modified to help with grooming.
Coquerel’s sifakas are experts at moving through the trees. They can complete leaps of up to 12.2m (40ft) across an open expanse. When moving along the ground they stand on their back 2 legs and will hop with the hands out to their sides for balance.
The name sifaka comes from their alarm call which sounds like ‘shif-auk.”
Top – By Francesco Veronesi from Italy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Middle – By Charlesjsharp (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bottom – By Frank Vassen [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons