Move over, penguins! Theres a new Madagascar native ready to steal the spotlight. Learn about Coquerels sifakas on this Wildlife Wednesday.
We’re all familiar with Madagascar’s four wayward penguins and their ability to operate with military precision, but how much do you know about the island nation’s residents? On this Wildlife Wednesday, we learn about Coquerel’s sifakas!
(Starting with the fact that it’s pronounced “sheef-auk,” not “see-fah-kah.”)
These long-legged lemurs can be found scarpering through the mixed forests of north-western Madagascar.
- Talk about leaping lemurs! Coquerel’s sifakas travel through the forest by using their hind legs to jump from tree to tree, and they can cover up to about 33 ft (10 m) in a single bound.
- Since they live in trees, it makes sense that Coquerel’s sifakas have a plant-based diet. They’ll eat bark, buds, leaves, and most other plant parts of a variety of species—including poison ivy!
- What’s in a name? Well, in this case, these furry fellows named themselves; when threatened, they emit a cry, which sounds like “sheefauk!”, to warn others.
- Like other primates, Coquerel’s sifakas are social creatures, and can normally be found living in troops of three to 10 members. Unlike most other primates, though, they have matriarchal societies, meaning that the females make all the rules.
- Fossas—the catlike creatures that Madagascar fans might recognize as the movie’s bad guys—are a main predator of most lemurs, including these bright-eyed bounders.
Why are they threatened?
Currently, Coquerel’s sifakas are listed as endangered by the IUCN; sifaka populations have declined by more than 50 percent over the past 50 years, and those numbers continue to fall.
One major threat to these wooly woodland creatures is deforestation, which shrinks home territories and reduces the availability of foraging grounds. Slash and burn agricultural practices are used to create livestock pastures and new fields, and are a main cause of deforestation; trees are also cut down for coal production.
Other concerns include hunting the animals for bush meat and predation from introduced species, including domestic cats and dogs.