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Keywords:

  • Propithecus coquereli;
  • distance sampling;
  • population density;
  • abundance;
  • edge effect

Abstract

Propithecus coquereli is one of the last sifaka species for which no reliable and extensive density estimates are yet available. Despite its endangered conservation status [IUCN, 2012] and recognition as a flagship species of the northwestern dry forests of Madagascar, its population in its last main refugium, the Ankarafantsika National Park (ANP), is still poorly known. Using line transect distance sampling surveys we estimated population density and abundance in the ANP. Furthermore, we investigated the effects of road, forest edge, river proximity and group size on sighting frequencies, and density estimates. We provide here the first population density estimates throughout the ANP. We found that density varied greatly among surveyed sites (from 5 to ∼100 ind/km2) which could result from significant (negative) effects of road, and forest edge, and/or a (positive) effect of river proximity. Our results also suggest that the population size may be ∼47,000 individuals in the ANP, hinting that the population likely underwent a strong decline in some parts of the Park in recent decades, possibly caused by habitat loss from fires and charcoal production and by poaching. We suggest community-based conservation actions for the largest remaining population of Coquerel's sifaka which will (i) maintain forest connectivity; (ii) implement alternatives to deforestation through charcoal production, logging, and grass fires; (iii) reduce poaching; and (iv) enable long-term monitoring of the population in collaboration with local authorities and researchers. Am. J. Primatol. 76:515–528, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.