Journal Madagascar Conservation & Development, Vol8|Iss2

Limestone cliff - face and cave use by wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) in southwestern Madagascar

Michelle L. Sauther, Frank P. Cuozzo, Ibrahim A. Youssouf Jacky, Krista D. Fish, Marni LaFleur, Lova A. L. Ravelohasindrazana, Jean F. Ravoavy


Ring-tailed lemurs live in a range of habitats in southwestern Madagascar. To date, much of the knowledge of ring-tailed lemur ecology, biology and behavior come from riverine gallery forests sites. Recent years have seen an expansion of comprehensive research on this resilient species, including areas of limestone spiny forest along Madagascar’s southwestern coast. This work is documenting newly discovered behaviors by this species. The regular use of cliff-faces and embedded crevices and caves by ring-tailed lemurs in southwestern Madagascar are reported here. Cave use by several anthropoid primates has been explained as a thermoregulatory behavior. It is suggested that cliff-face and cave use by these ring-tailed lemurs serves several purposes, including resource acquisition, thermoregulation, and as an anti-predator avoidance strategy in the absence of suitable large sleeping trees. Observations indicate that the limestone boundaries of the Mahafaly Plateau and their associated xerophytic scrub forests warrant further conserva­tion attention, given the presence of behavioral variation and increasing threats to this endangered primate species.



Lemur catta occupe divers habitats dans le Sud-ouest de Madagascar. L’écologie, la biologie et le comportement de Lemur catta sont actuellement mieux connus des populations vivant dans les forêts riveraines et les zones environnantes. Pour mieux comprendre cette espèce de lémurien, les recherches ont été étendues à d’autres habitats dont les forêts épineuses du plateau calcaire qui est situé le long du littoral Sud-ouest de Madagascar. Dans cette étude nous rapportons les comportements récemment découverts de Lemur catta qui utilise les falaises et les grottes dans le Sud-ouest de Madagascar. L’utilisation des grottes par la plupart des primates hominoïdes est liée à un avantage thermorégulateur offert par ce milieu. Dans notre cas, l’exploitation de falaises et de grottes par Lemur catta semble être associée à un mécanisme permettant d’échapper aux prédateurs et à l’absence de grands arbres qui devaient servir de dortoirs. De sorte que les falaises et les forêts épineuses du plateau calcaire Mahafaly ont besoin d’une conservation particulière car nos résultats de suivis montrent que les changements de comportement du lémurien emblématique de cette région trouve vraisemblablement son origine dans la dégradation de l’environnement de cette espèce.


coastal forests; Mahafaly Plateau; conservation; ecology; limestone habitats

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Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510