Predation on Lemurs in the Rainforest of Madagascar by Multiple Predator Species: Observations and Experiments

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Abstract

Predation by raptors, snakes, and carnivores is a constant risk for most wild primates (Cheney & Seyfarth, 1981; Anderson, 1986; Cheney & Wrangham, 1987; Janson & van Schaik, 1993; Cowlishaw, 1994; Isbell, 1994; Hill & Dunbar, 1998; Treves, 1999; Bearder et al., 2002; Gursky, 2002a, b; Shultz & Noë, 2002). In Madagascar, the problem may be especially severe since prosimians are the largest, most abundant and conspicuous mammals in the forest (Wright, 1998). Lemur behavior may be strongly influenced in its avoiding predation by stealthy predators, such as Henst’s goshawk (Accipiter henstii), the fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox), or the Madagascar boa constrictor (Boa manditra) (Sauther, 1989; Goodman et al., 1993a; Gould, 1996; Wright, 1998; Karpanty & Goodman, 1999; Karpanty & Grella, 2001; Fichtel & Kappeler, 2002; Goodman, 2004). Most studies of predator and prey concentrate on one taxon of predator, such as hawks or leopards (Isbell, 1990; Peres, 1990; Struhsaker & Leakey, 1990, Boesch, 1991; Shultz, 2001, 2002), while the forest reality is that an animal avoids several distinct predators simultaneously. This is certainly true in Madagascar, where day-hunting hawks and eagles hunt both sleeping nocturnal and active diurnal lemurs, and fossas and boas hunt day and night (Wright, 1998; Karpanty, 2006). Therefore, ability to develop foraging and resting strategy for risk avoidance might be a major factor in primate sociality (Janson & van Schaik, 1993; Janson & Goldsmith, 1995; Stanford, 1995).