Gathering Local Knowledge in Madagascar Results in a Major Increase in the Known Range and Number of Sites for Critically Endangered Greater Bamboo Lemurs (Prolemur simus)
Greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus) are endemic to Madagascar and are the only recognized species within their genus. The IUCN lists the species as critically endangered, with very few confirmed distribution records and <200 individuals known in the wild. With the aim of contributing to its conservation, we attempted to find previously unknown sites containing the species. Working closely with local communities, and basing our methodology on the gathering of local knowledge, we surveyed 44 sites in and around the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor. We found evidence of the presence of Prolemur simus at 18 sites. We made direct sightings at 6 sites, of a total of 65 confirmed individuals, and identified their characteristic feeding remains at the other sites. Twelve of the sites are located in midaltitude rain forest within the corridor, and 6 lie in isolated and degraded lowland areas outside the corridor. These discoveries more than double the number of sites where the species is known to occur, and extend its known range 85 km further north. We identified numerous threats to the newly discovered sites, including hunting pressure, habitat destruction, habitat disturbance, and habitat fragmentation. Demographic factors related to small population sizes and population isolation may also impact the viability of the populations. Our results illustrate the benefits of systematic gathering of local knowledge when searching for rare or secretive primates.