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Density Estimates of Two Endangered Nocturnal Lemur Species From Northern Madagascar: New Results and a Comparison of Commonly Used Methods


  • Contract grant sponsor: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Contract grant number: PTDC/BIABEC/100176/2008; Contract grant sponsor: Institut Français de la Biodiversité, Programme Biodiversité de l'Océan Indien, contract grant number: CD-AOOI-07-003; Contract grant sponsor: “Laboratoire d'Excellence (LABEX)” entitled TULIP, Contract grant number: ANR -10-LABX-41; Contract grant sponsor: Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência; Contract grant sponsor: Optimus!Alive-IGC fellowship.

Correspondence to: Samuel Viana Meyler, Jordi Salmona, Population and Conservation Genetics Group, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, Rua da Quinta Grande, 6, P-2780-156 Oeiras, Portugal. E-mail:,


Very little information is known of the recently described Microcebus tavaratra and Lepilemur milanoii in the Daraina region, a restricted area in far northern Madagascar. Since their forest habitat is highly fragmented and expected to undergo significant changes in the future, rapid surveys are essential to determine conservation priorities. Using both distance sampling and capture–recapture methods, we estimated population densities in two forest fragments. Our results are the first known density and population size estimates for both nocturnal species. In parallel, we compare density results from four different approaches, which are widely used to estimate lemur densities and population sizes throughout Madagascar. Four approaches (King, Kelker, Muller and Buckland) are based on transect surveys and distance sampling, and they differ from each other by the way the effective strip width is estimated. The fifth method relies on a capture–mark–recapture (CMR) approach. Overall, we found that the King method produced density estimates that were significantly higher than other methods, suggesting that it generates overestimates and hence overly optimistic estimates of population sizes in endangered species. The other three distance sampling methods provided similar estimates. These estimates were similar to those obtained with the CMR approach when enough recapture data were available. Given that Microcebus species are often trapped for genetic or behavioral studies, our results suggest that existing data can be used to provide estimates of population density for that species across Madagascar. Am. J. Primatol. 74:414-422, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.