Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve: Long-Term Research on Lemurs in Southwestern Madagascar
The Beza Mahafaly Project in southwestern Madagascar was founded in 1975. It was established as a collaborative effort among the University of Madagascar (now University of Antananarivo), Washington University, Yale University, and the local communities for long-term training and research, biodiversity conservation, and socioeconomic development. Beza Mahafaly consists of two noncontiguous forest parcels separated by 10 km that became a protected area (Réserve Spéciale) in 1986: an 80-ha gallery forest and a 520-ha xerophytic spiny forest. The region has a diversity of habitats and a very diverse and highly endemic flora and fauna, including four species of lemurs found in or near the reserve. The ringtailed lemur (Lemur catta) and Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) have been the subject of our long-term research. In this chapter we highlight some of the results of this research. Our multidisciplinary studies illustrate the feasibility of collecting long-term data on careers of individual animals and of obtaining large samples on numerous animals, across numerous social groups, in relatively isolated breeding populations. Thus, we can provide insights into many of the demographic, socioecological, anthropogenic, and epidemiological factors that shape the local ringtailed lemur and sifaka population. Here we summarize how ringtailed lemur demographic structure is affected by climatic perturbations (drought); how aspects of general health (parasite loads and dental health) are directly related to habitat, dietary, and anthropogenic factors; how tight birth seasonality in sifaka can elicit stress responses in males associated with increased male aggression, group takeovers, and infanticide risk; how life history schedules are related to evolutionary responses to extreme climatic fluctuations; and how directional selection among sifaka males leads to longer, stronger legs, but not to increase in male body mass relative to females.
KeywordsMating Season Gallery Forest Birth Season Ringtailed Lemur Sportive Lemur
We are grateful to the Government of Madagascar, Madagascar National Parks (MNP formerly ANGAP), the University of Antananarivo (The School of Agronomy (ESSA) especially the Forestry Department of this School (ESSA-Forêts) for permission to work at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve. We especially appreciate the past and the present help, advice, and logistical support of our colleagues in Madagascar, notably Jo Ajimy, Krista Fish, James Loudon, Teague O’Mara, Jennifer Ness, Rafidisoa Tsiory, the late Rakotomanga Pothin, Ranaivoson Andrianasolo, Razakanirina Daniel, Ramanoelina Panja, Rasoarahona Jean, Rajoelison Gabrielle, Bruno Ramamonjisoa, Ranaivonasy Jeannin, Jessica Scott, and Youssouf Jacky. Our profound thanks go to the members of the BMSR Monitoring Team past and present, and in particular Enafa, Elahavelo, Emady Rigobert, Ellis Edidy, Efitiria, Eboroke Sylvain, Ranarivelo Ny Andry, Randrianarisoa Jeannicq, Ravelonjatovo Sylvia, Razanajaonarivaly Elyse, Ratsirarson Helian, and as well as to the Madagascar National Park team on the ground now led by Andry Randrianandrasana. Enafa’s skill with the blow gun is extraordinary, and together the BMSR Monitoring Team not only made it possible to capture so many animals safely but also, thereafter, to census and monitor them regularly.
We are grateful to our U.S. colleagues who continue to make important contributions to research on sifaka at BMSR, most notably the members of the Beza Mahafaly Sifaka Research Consortium (BMSRC), Marion Schwartz (Sifaka Database Manager), Patricia L. Whitten, Laurie R. Godfrey, and Robert E. Dewar. For veterinary assistance we thank David Miller, Martha Weber, Scott Larsen, Anneke Moresco, Mandala Hunter, Heather Culbertson, Kerry Sondgeroth, Katie Eckert, Rachel Mills, Angie Simai, Jessica Kurek, and Catherine Woods. Long-term support of the BMSR Monitoring Team has kindly been provided by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation in collaboration with Yale University and the University of Cambridge. Numerous funding agencies have generously supported our on-going research at BMSR, notably National Science Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, Schwartz Family Foundation Trust, St. Louis Zoo, Primate Conservation Inc., the International Primatological Society, the Indianapolis Zoo (Department of Science and Conservation), Tany Meva, MNP, the Wenner-Gran Foundation, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the University of North Dakota (SSAC; Faculty Research Seed Money Council; Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Award Committee) and North Dakota EPSCoR, the American Society of Primatologists, the Lindbergh Fund, the John Ball Zoo Society, the National Geographic Society, the University of Colorado-Boulder (Council on Research and Creative Work, Innovative Grant Program), and Washington University. The electronic record of the primate specimens and their assigned Beza Mahafaly Osteological Collection (BMOC) numbers is available online through the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Collections website (Brockman et al. 2008).
[http://www.umass.edu/anthmorphometricslab/BezaMahafalyOsteoCollection.htm]. Finally, we thank Peter Kappeler, David Watts, and an anonymous reviewer for their excellent comments on this paper.
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