Demography and social organization of free-ranging Lemur catta in the Beza Mahafaly Reserve, Madagascar



In 1987, a long-term study of the demography of Lemur catta was begun in southern Madagascar. Eighty-five ringtailed lemurs were captured, marked, and released. Adult age classes were estimated using patterns of dental attrition. Including young, 155 individuals from nine groups were identified and monitored over 18 months. The study population of the reserve remained stable, with a growth rate of 0.98. Group sizes ranged from nine to 22 individuals (mean 14). Home ranges were larger (32 ha) and population densities lower (135/km2) than those for previously studied populations, and there was a relationship between habitat quality (e.g., no. of large trees) and these factors. At the beginning of the study, there were more adult males than females, but the sex ratio reached 1.00 by the last census. Females first gave birth at 3 years of age, and 80% or more of the females gave birth in 2 consecutive years. Fifty-two percent of the infants died in the first year and, given preliminary findings, only 40% of those born reach adulthood. Age-specific fertility patterns were similar to those reported for anthropoid primates. Forty-seven percent of the adult males migrated or were missing within a year. This included 78% of the 3–4 year olds and 38% of older age classes. No females were observed to migrate. One group split during the study. Demographic patterns are discussed and related to patterns in other populations of ringtailed lemurs as well as in anthropoids.