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Keywords:

  • Lemur catta;
  • Propithecus verreauxi;
  • distribution;
  • abundance;
  • forest classification;
  • distance sampling

Abstract

The study of southern dry forest lemurs has been largely restricted to small reserves; yet, the majority of the region's lemur populations reside outside protected areas. Lemur catta and Propithecus verreauxi occupy the same forests but have different dietary preferences. This study assessed L. catta and P. verreauxi population densities across a 3-km dry forest gradient (1,539 ha) in southern Madagascar. The study was designed to allow lemur densities to be related to particular forest types. A particular aim of this study was to collect lemur data in both protected and unprotected areas. Density estimates were calculated using point transect distance sampling in a study area that contained the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve and the adjacent disturbed forests. The highest densities recorded for each species were in the protected area where the two species were most segregated in their distribution, with L. catta density highest in gallery forest type and P. verreauxi density highest in dry deciduous. Densities of both species varied widely outside the protected area, but P. verreauxi density was more uniform than was L. catta. Results of this study indicate that patterns of lemur density in protected areas are not representative of patterns in disturbed forests; this also suggests that we cannot fully understand the ecological constraints facing primate species by studying them only in protected areas. This research highlights the value of pairing the study of landscape-level patterns of species distribution with both local ground-level ecological interpretations and broad-scale satellite data; information from only one level may give an incomplete view of the community. Am. J. Primatol. 73:38–52, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.