Coquerel’s sifakas (Propithecus coquereli) are endemic to Madagascar. This species resides in dry deciduous forests found to the north and east of the Betsiboka River. It has been reported as far north as Bealanana, as far south as Ambato-Boeni, and to the east in the vicinity of Antetemasy. It can be found in Ankarafantsika National Park as well as the Bora Special Reserve. Documented sightings have occurred in the coastal mangroves of Baie de Mahajamba.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Other Geographic Terms: island endemic
Coquerel’s sifakas have dorsal pelage and limbs that are predominately white. They have large chocolate-brown markings on the front of the arms, thighs and chest, which may differ slightly in size and placement. The fur is quite dense. The back may be a pale silver-gray or brown, while the tail ranges in color from silver-gray to white. Short white hairs cover the muzzle and the face is black. They have small, black ears that protrude through the surrounding fur. Males can be differentiated from females by their gular (throat) gland, which stains the surrounding skin and hair, as well as the dark red-brown color of the perianal skin. Coquerel’s sifaka range in mass from 3.7 to 4.3 kg.
Range mass: 3.7 to 4.3 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently
Coquerel’s sifaka inhabit old growth and secondary growth forests of mixed deciduous and evergreen trees, from sea level to 300 m above sea level. They also travel through scrub habitat when traveling between fragmented forest patches.
Range elevation: 0 to 300 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
Coquerel’s sifaka eats immature and mature leaves, seeds, flowers, fruit and bark. The majority of their diet consists of leaves, and their teeth are well-adapted for slicing and grinding plant material. Their total diet includes 75 to 100 different plant species; however, 60 to 80% of the time they feed on only 10% of these species. It has been suggested that Coquerel’s sifakas are opportunistic feeders as dominant forage plants change with season. Their enlarged cecum and colon helps facilitate digestion of their highly fibrous diet. Undigested beans have been found in feces, and it has been proposed that nourishment is obtained from the casing rather than the bean itself. Captive individuals at the Duke Lemur Center are primarily fed shining leaf sumac and mimosa. Between 30 to 40% of the day is spent foraging, with peak foraging activity occurring during morning, midday, and late-afternoon. Foraging bouts are separated by rest, and when foraging, they remain within their territories and spend the majority of the time within a core area. The majority of aggression found between sexes is related to feeding. Females commonly exhibit dominance during foraging bouts. Female dominance during feeding likely plays an important role during gestation and lactation. Females usually exercise dominance by controlling access to preferred food or feeding areas by being the first to feed or feeding until satisfied and then allowing males to access the food
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; flowers
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Coquerel’s sifaka are prey for a number of native and introduced vertebrate predators. As seed predators, Coquerel’s sifaka may help disperse seeds as well. There is no information available regarding parasites of this species.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Coquerel’s sifakas are preyed upon by hawks and other raptors, constrictor snakes as well as the puma-like fossa, the largest mammalian carnivore found on Madagascar. Aerial predators would be of most danger to the infants. Introduced predators include feral dogs, African wildcats, European wildcats, large Indian civets and Egyptian mongooses. The most imminent threat to Coquerel’s sifakas is humans, which hunt them for food and sport. In the past, the Malagasy people did not hunt sifakas because it was considered “fady” or taboo; however, there are reports that hunger is overpowering this custom. Populations of Coquerel's sifakas that have been hunted in the past flee from humans; if not, they may give a general alarm call. Numerous reports describe being approached by a group of Coquerel’s sifakas on the ground. All members of the group give alarm calls and head jerks while approaching humans. One report documented a group coming within 3 to 5 m. Between alarm calls, they were said to stare and weave their heads back and forth. Roaring barks are made for aerial predators and "sifaka" calls are made for terrestrial predators. Neighboring groups often return alarm calls after searching the local area for potential predators.
- fossa, (Crypotporcta ferox)
- feral dogs, (Canis lupus familiaris)
- African wildcats, (Felis silvestris )
- European wildcats, (Felis lybica)
- humans, (Homo sapiens)
Life History and Behavior
Coquerel’s sifakas engage in auditory, visual and olfactory communication. Alarm calls used for aerial predators are often described as roaring barks and growls. General alarm calls, which sound like "sifaka" with an explosive clicking sound at the end, are used to alert group members of terrestrial predators. When separated from their group, Coquerel's sifakas emit a loud, extended wail. Facial expressions and body postures include a play face where the mouth is held open in a silent laugh, and head jerks where the head is thrown quickly back while calling when facing a predator. Polymorphic trichromacy, which allows them to see a full range of colors, was recently discovered in Coquerel’s sifaka. Both males and females use of the anogenital region, the area between the anus and the genitala, for scent marking. Males also use the gular gland for scent marking branches and tree trunks. Both males and females scant mark with urine as well. Males touch the end of the penis to a tree trunk while clinging to it and move up the trunk about 50 cm leaving a line of urine. Vertical trunk marking is less common in females; however, they may press their body to the tree trunk while they climb a short ways up to leave a similar mark as males. The markings are thought to display sex of the marker as well as reproductive status of females since markings greatly increase in frequency during mating season.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
In the wild, Coquerel's sifakas live between 27 and 30 years. The oldest known individual in the wild was 30 years old. In captivity, they live between 25 and 30 years, and the oldest known captive individual, held at the Duke Lemur Center, lived to be 31 years old.
Status: wild: 30 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 31 (high) years.
Status: wild: 30 (high) years.
Status: wild: 27 years.
Status: captivity: 25 to 30 years.
Coquerel’s sifakas have synchronized estrous which occurs during January and February. Exact timing can be predicted from the two day flushing of the vulva found in females in the precopulatory period. Females mate with intragroup males or males from visiting groups. They appear to be polyandrous, which may serve to confuse paternity and impede male infanticide. Males have been witnessed fighting over access to estrous females, however, the victor isn't always chosen to mate. Coquerel’s sifakas appear to continue reproducing regardless of senescence. The oldest reproducing individual on record was 24 years old, and animals have been known to reproduce the year they die.
Mating System: polyandrous
Gestation in Coquerel’s sifakas lasts for approximately 162 days. Typically, a single infant is born during the dry season, which occurs during June and July. Newborns weigh between 85 and 115 g at birth, with an average weight of 100 g. Infants cling to the mother's venter during travel until they are about 1 month old, at which point they move to the dorsum. Infants are weaned during the wet season at approximately 5 to 6 months of age and are completely independent after 6 months. Most individuals reach adult size in 1 to 5 years, depending on habitat conditions and forage availability. Estimated age of sexual maturity for both males and females is reportedly 2 to 3.5 years of age. Females have been known to give birth for the first time at 3 years of age, while others have others have been reported to have their first offspring at the age of 6. Hybridizations can occur between closely related species such as Propithecus verreauxi, which was once considered a subspecies of Coquerel’s sifakas.
Breeding interval: Propithecus coquereli breeds once yearly.
Breeding season: Propithecus coquereli breeds during January and February.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average gestation period: 162 days.
Range weaning age: 5 to 6 months.
Average time to independence: 6 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 6 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3.5 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 (low) years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3.5 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Coquerel's sifakas have a maximum of 2 offspring per group per year, presumably due to the high costs of reproduction. Females give birth every other year and must increase their basal metabolic rate before and during parturition. As with most mammals, the most energetically expensive aspect of reproduction is lactation, which occurs during the dry season and lasts for 5 to 6 months. Although rare, males and juveniles have been observed carrying infants. Information on paternal care is limited, however, the highest ranking male in the group offers limited support to females and their young.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); extended period of juvenile learning
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Propithecus coquereli
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Propithecus coquereli
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
Coquerel’s sifakas are classified as an endangered species on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. The most immediate threat is habitat loss due to deforestation and slash and burn farming. Trees are either cleared for farming, raising livestock or for charcoal production. In addition to reducing the amount of potential habitat for Coquerel's sifakas, deforestation also reduces forage availability. Hunting pressure is also a major concern. Coquerel's sifakas are currently found in two protected areas: the Ankarafantsika National Park and the Bora Special Reserve. However, illegal hunting is thought to be common in these areas as well. Increased predation by introduced species has negatively impacted this species as well. PAW (Projects for Animal Welfare) of Madagascar was founded in 2011 to combat the threat of introduced cats and dogs. The group is a non-profit that seeks to spay and neuter the population of cats and dogs on the island so that they will not threaten the native wildlife. Coquerel's sifakas are listed under Appendix 1 by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix i
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no known adverse effects of Coquerel’s sifaka on humans'.
Coquerel’s sikafas have been the subject of many studies that may provide insight on the evolutionary history of primates, specifically that of humans. They have also been the subject of various research efforts, including those investigating the evolution of color vision, female dominated society, evolution of paternal care, and causes of speciation. Coquerel's sifakas are commonly hunted by the people of Madagascar. In addition, because lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, the emerging eco-tourism industry benefits significantly from their presence.
Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism ; research and education
Coquerel's sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) is a diurnal, medium-sized lemur of the sifaka genus Propithecus. Like all lemurs, it is native to Madagascar. It was once considered to be a subspecies of Verreaux's sifaka, but was eventually granted full species level.
Coquerel's sifaka is a vertical clinger and leaper with long, powerful hind legs and an upright posture. It has a head-body length of 42–50 cm and a tail length of 50–60 cm. The total mature length (including tail) is approximately 93 to 110 cm. Adult body mass is typically around 4 kg. The dorsal pelage and tail are white, with maroon patches on the chest and portions of the limbs. The coat is generally dense. Its face is bare and black except for a distinctive patch of white fur along the bridge of the nose. Its naked ears are also black, and its eyes are yellow or orange. The bottom of the lemurs hands and feet are black, while the thighs, arms, and chest are a chocolate brown. Also, just like all lemurs, Coquerel’s Sifaka’s have a toothcomb. They use this for grooming and sometimes scraping fruit off a pit.” 
This species occurs at altitudes of less than 300 ft in the dry deciduous forests of northwestern Madagascar, including coastal forests. It occurs from the Betsiboka River, up to the Maevarano River, and are common in large area between these two rivers. A recent study  reported its southeast-most presence in Ambalanjanakomby along the Betsiboka River. A extensive survey of the species distribution conducted in 2009, 2010 and 2011 led to the confirmation of its presence in most forest fragments between the two above mentioned rivers. Nevertheless its eastern distribution limits are still unclear, between the Sofia and Bemarivo rivers, the species has twice been reported to be absent (Table 1 in ). Similarly, the southern part of the inter-river system between the Bemarivo and Betsiboka rivers, where little is known about the presence of the species, still requires surveys.
Groups of this species have a home range area amounting to 4-9 hectares. A recent line transect distance sampling work  in Ankarafantsika National Park suggests that population densities ranges from 5 to 100 ind/km²) and significant (negative) effects of road, and forest edge, and/or a (positive) effect of river proximity on densities. The population size may be ~47,000 individuals in the Ankarafantsika National Park. However the species is frequently seen around villages and in areas dominated by introduced tree species.
Coquerel's sifaka has an herbivorous diet that varies by season. In the wet season, it eats immature leaves, flowers, fruit, bark, and dead wood. In the dry season, it eats mature leaves and buds. It may browse nearly 100 different plant species, but the majority of its feeding time will be concentrated on about 10% of these. Since it has a very fibrous diet, Coquerel's sifaka has an enlarged cecum and extremely long colon which helps facilitate digestion. These lemurs spend between thirty to forty percent of its day foraging, especially in the morning, midday, and evening. Females often take leadership roles during foraging, and exert their dominance by eating the preferred food or denying the males food until they are satisfied. These lemurs are beneficial to the environment because they aid seed dispersion and serve to populate the plant life. Captive Coquerel’s sifkas eat shining leaf sumac and mimosa.
Coquerel's Sifaka lives in matriarchal groups of about three to ten individuals. It is diurnal and primarily arboreal. Much is known about its behavior from observations both in the wild and in captivity.
Coquerel’s sifaka spend the majority of its time in areas of just two or three hectares. However, they can live in areas with four to eight. Even though their home range may overlap with other groups of sifaka, they just avoid each other in order to avoid aggression. When friendly Coquerel's sifakas meet, they greet each other by rubbing their noses together.
Matriarchy is rare in the animal kingdom as a whole but common among lemurs. A matriarchal system is particularly pronounced in Coquerel's sifaka. All adult and even most subadult females are dominant over males.
Females have preferential access to food and other resources. When a female is browsing a particular area or tree, a male must wait for her to finish before he moves there to feed himself. If he gets in the way of the female, she may lunge, smack at him, or bite him. The male then exhibits submissive behavior by rolling his tail between his legs, chattering softly, and baring his teeth in a grimace before quickly leaping out of her way.
When mating, Coquerel's sifaka commonly practices polyandry. A female may choose to mate with only one male, but most often she will mate with several, from other visiting groups as well as from her own. Males compete for access to sexually receptive females. However, the winner of a fight will not necessarily be the one she selects to breed with. The criteria by which she chooses a mate are evidently more complex.
In some other animals, polyandrous mating is thought to raise the chances of successful fertilization, but this does not appear to be the case in Coquerel's sifaka. Instead, polyandry is thought to be advantageous because when paternity is confused, the likelihood of male infanticide decreases.
Female Coquerel's sifakas choose who they mate with whether it be intragroup males or males from outside groups. They have synchronized estrous and this occurs during January and February. Infants are born in June and July after a gestation period of about 162 days. Normally, one infant is born during Madagascar’s dry season (June–July). Newborn lemurs have an average weight of 100 grams, though it can vary between 85 and 115 grams An infant will cling to its mother's chest until about a month or so after birth, then transfer to her back. Infants are weaned and become fully independent by about six months of age. Adult size is reached anywhere from one to five years.
Both males and females become sexually mature around two to three and half years old, though some do not have their first offspring until they are six. Hybrid species have been known to occur with some species. One such species is the Propithecus verreauxi.
In the trees, Coquerel's sifaka moves by vertical clinging and leaping. It maintains an upright posture when at rest or when propelling itself between branches or trunks. This style of arboreal locomotion is characteristic of most, if not all, lemurs. This particular lemur can leap from tree to tree anywhere up to thirty-three feet. They also have the extraordinary ability to leap to spiny trees and precisely place their hands and feet so that they will not hurt themselves.
Occasionally Coquerel's sifaka will descend to the ground to cross open spaces. Its terrestrial locomotion is unique to its species. Like Verreaux's sifaka, it moves in a series of bipedal hops with its arms thrown out to the sides for balance. However, whereas Verreaux's sifaka bounds sideways and crosses its legs one in front of the other, the Coquerel's sifaka bounds forward, like a kangaroo. It leans in the direction of its jump to achieve forward momentum.
Coquerel's sifaka uses a variety of auditory, visual, and olfactory signals to communicate. ‘Sifaka' is a Malagasy name that comes from the lemurs’ characteristic “shif-auk” sound. The first syllable is a low growl that "bubbles" in the throat, and the second is a clicking sound like an amplified hiccup. The "shih-fak" call is used to warn fellow group members of a potential ground predator or to threaten enemies and intruders. Coquerel's sifaka is highly territorial.
Contact calls used when groups are traveling include soft grunts and growls. If a sifaka is separated from its group members, it may emit a long, loud wail to find them.
One visual signal which Coquerel's sifaka uses to communicate is a rapid backward jerking of the head. This is a threatening action which may accompany the "shih-fak" call.
Sifakas also rely heavily on scent for communication. Males typically scent-mark using a gland in their throats, which they will rub back and forth along branches. Females are more likely to scent-mark with anogenital glands. It is not entirely clear what information is conveyed in these scents, beyond the demarcation of territory.
Coquerel’s sifakas, like many lemurs, have been studied to help scientists learn about the evolutionary history of primates, including humans. Since they are so endangered and hunted in Madagascar, the ecotourism industry has benefitted greatly because of the Sifaka and brings people into the country. Not only do scientists study the sifaka to get insight of evolution but they have also been the subject of those researching evolution of color vision, paternal care, matriarchal primate societies and causes of speciation.
Conservation status and threats
Though its populations are thought to be widely distributed, Coquerel's sifaka is found in only two protected areas in Madagascar: the Ankarafantsika National Park and the Bora Special Reserve. It is an endangered species, according to the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. The principal threats to its existence are deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and hunting pressure. The locals often clear trees to produce new farming land, especially in the marshes where rice can be grown. In northwestern Madagascar, deforestation results from annual burning to create new pastureland for livestock. Trees are also cut for the production of charcoal.
Many local Malagasy traditions prohibit hunting of the Coquerel's sifaka. One such taboo derives from a legend of a sifaka saving the life of a boy who has fallen out of a tree. The story goes like this: "A little boy heads into the forest to find some honey. He spots a hive in a high tree and he ascends it. As he's about to reach in to collect the honey, he is immediately attacked by bees. The surprise causes the boy to lose his grip on the tree branch, and he falls to what is almost certainly his death. As the boy plummets toward the earth, a large lemur suddenly appears, swoops in and catches the boy, saving his life. Ever since that day, lemurs became sacred to the Malagasy and it is said that anyone who kills one shall have extreme misfortune." However, these protective taboos are breaking down with cultural erosion and immigration.
This lemur is now hunted for bush-meat, but humans are not the only threat. The introduction of foreign species, especially cats and dogs, has hurt the Coquerel’s sifaka. PAW (Projects for Animal Welfare) encourages the neutering and spaying of the cats and dogs on the island in order to protect the native wildlife. Even the protected areas in which the Coquerel's sifaka occurs offer it little protection. It is hunted even within Ankarafantsika, and the Bora Special Reserve has become seriously degraded.
There are many animals that prey on the Coquerel’s Sifaka. Hawks and various other raptors attack these lemurs from above, while constrictor snakes and the Fossa threaten them from the ground. There are also many introduced predators such as feral dogs, African cats, European cats, mongooses and civets. However out of all these creatures, humans are the biggest hazard to the sifaka. Even though it was considered a taboo to kill the lemurs, Coquerel’s sifaka see humans now as a threat and may give out an alarm call to warn the others. Unfortunately, some of these lemurs are unaware of the danger humans pose and will approach humans on the ground. To intimidate predators they do recognize, the lemurs will announce the threat with a warning call, and stare at the threat, shaking their heads back and forth.
The lemur on the PBS Kids television program Zoboomafoo is based on a Coquerel's sifaka. The Coquerel’s sifaka who starred in the show is named Jovian. Jovian lived at the Duke Lemur Center where the show was originally filmed until he died from kidney failure at the age of 20 1/2 years old on November 10, 2014. His son Charlemagne, affectionately known as "Charlie", also lives at the Center, along with his family group of other Coquerel’s sifaka.
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