project news

Lemurs "Feeding in the Dark"

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 30 Mar 2010


Bruce Springsteen once said that ‘everybody’s got a hungry heart’, but sometimes it’s ok just to need food. In Madagascar, one of our budding assistant research officers has undertaken some groundbreaking research and produced some very interesting data. She has been investigating the feeding habits of a specific species of lemur, the Ankarana sportive lemur, outside the confines of protected areas between Montagne d’Ambre National Park to the north and Ankarana Special Reserve to the south. As well as investigating feeding habitats in unprotected areas the study aims to also shed light on the impacts of habitat destruction on unprotected areas of Madagascan forest.

Many studies have been carried out on the feeding habits of these nocturnal creatures; however, none have ever investigated the behaviour of the Ankarana sportive lemur outside of protected areas. Gaining vital details on these endemic primates in unprotected areas also offers an opportunity to monitor disturbance and, in the longer term, foster the expansion of these protected areas.

By wandering through the dense Madagascan forest just after sunset, armed merely with a head torch for company, the team would wait for the reflection of the lemur’s eye shine. Once located, the food item being eaten by the lemur and details of the tree it was feeding near/from was recorded. The study confirmed what was already widely accepted, that the predominant diet of the sportive lemur consisted of leaves and fruit. In particular, this study showed that leaves made up nearly two thirds of their diet compared to fruit.

In the near future, our research team are hopeful to investigate the feeding habits with regard to quantities of food consumed and the length to which they feed to give a better understanding of the nutritional requirements of the Ankarana sportive lemur. Without the help of these dedicated, enthusiastic and bright volunteers, research like this would never be possible. So we want to use this opportunity to offer a great thanks to all our volunteers who help us in our mission to curb the accelerating crisis of biodiversity loss worldwide.

Ed Cremin

Read more about our Madagascar Wildlife Conservation Adventure