, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 260-280

Effects of Habitat Degradation on Sleeping Site Choice and Use in Sahamalaza Sportive Lemurs (Lepilemur sahamalazensis)

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Abstract

Sleeping sites may be beneficial for animals in terms of thermoregulation, proximity to foraging sites, and protection from predators and infectious diseases. The abundance of adequate sleeping sites is thus essential for the survival of primates. We investigated microhabitats around sleeping sites, and the influence of habitat degradation on sleeping site choice and usage, in the nocturnal Sahamalaza sportive lemur, Lepilemur sahamalazensis. We used quarter point sampling (N = 315) to describe five forest fragments and 57 sleeping sites and continuous focal animal sampling (N = 45) to determine the diurnal activity budget, to determine whether individuals inhabiting different fragments or sleeping site types showed different levels of vigilance. Our results suggest that tall trees with large crowns, a high density of small trees, and dense canopy are particularly important for sleeping site choice. Microhabitat structure around sleeping sites did not differ between forest fragments or sleeping site types. Diameter at breast height, crown diameter, canopy cover, and bole height were similar for all sleeping trees, as were the number of lianas in trees with tree-tangle sleeping sites, and the volume of tree holes. Tree holes used as sleeping sites were most often found in dead trees of Bridelia pervilleana (50–62.5 %), whereas tree tangle sites were most often located in Sorindeia madagascariensis (20–62.5 %). Lemurs were active 5–14 % of the daytime, although they never left their sleeping sites or fed. Individuals occupying tree holes had higher levels of activity than those in tree tangles, and those in more degraded fragments were more active. Our results suggest that Sahamalaza sportive lemurs choose their sleeping sites according to specific habitat characteristics, and that factors associated with old and intact forest are likely to be crucial for their survival.