Coat condition of ringtailed lemurs, Lemur catta at Berenty Reserve, Madagascar: I. differences by age, sex, density and tourism, 1996–2006



An index of coat condition can be a non-invasive tool for tracking health and stress at population level. Coat condition in ringtailed lemurs, Lemur catta, was recorded during September–November birth seasons of 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2001–2006 at Berenty Reserve, Madagascar. Condition was scored on a scale from 0: full, fluffy coat with guard hairs present, to 5: half or more of body hairless. Adult males did not differ overall from adult females. Coats were worse in adults than in 2-year-old subadults; 1-year-old juveniles were intermediate. Mothers and adult males lost coat condition as the season progressed: non-mother females maintained condition. Years 1999–2002 scored better coats than either 1996–1997 or 2003–2006. Lemurs in high population density areas had worse coats than in natural forest, but tourist presence had less effect than density. Monitoring coat condition in an apparently healthy population reveals differences between population segments, and in a forest fragment with limited immigration or emigration it can track progressive changes, correcting impressions of progressive improvement or degradation over time. Above all it gives a baseline for response to climate changes or eventual pathology. Am. J. Primatol. 71:191–198, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.