Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 73 – The Northern Sportive Lemur


Northern sportive lemur

“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man.  All things are connected”
Chief Seattle

Not another endangered lemur you may cry, but, this one is very special.  Incredibly, there are only eighteen left on the planet and none known to be kept in captivity.  Also known as the Sahafary sportive lemur, this gorgeous little primate is really struggling to survive.  Like most wildlife species on the island of Madagascar, northern sporting lemurs cannot be found anywhere else in the world.  Many species are expected to go extinct within the next decade, and the chances are, the northern sportive lemur will be the first to go.  And, to boot, the first for two hundred years.  Currently, it has very little habitat left and even less chance of survival.  It is very doubtful that anything will change in time to save these endearing little primates.Sportive lemur 4 - Photo Credit Coke Smith

Madagascar, beautiful and as richly-biodiverse as it is, is also an island far too familiar with political unrest, poverty and lack of education.  The state of this species is a prime example of the result of the combination of these factors.  Twenty-one million people live on the island and over eighty-five per cent of its forests have disappeared.   It is estimated that all of the unprotected forest will be gone on the island by year 2025. None of it really makes sense.  The country is extremely rich in mineral deposits,  has petroleum and a vast array of wonderful wildlife which should bring in huge revenues from tourists.  Unfortunately, this is not what is happening.

This tiny, round-eyed resident of Madagascar measures no more than eight inches in length and weighs a mere two pounds.  It has greyish-brown fur with a dark line along its back.  Both eyes face forward for optimum vision.

The northern sportive lemur leaps from tree to tree, and can jump vertically up tree trunks using padded hands and feet to cling on with.  The species also has a curious habit of adopting a vertical stance, rather like a boxer, when feeling threatened.  It is from this stance the name ‘sportive’ is derived.

Sportive lemur 5Northern sportive lemurs are nocturnal.  During the day, they sleep in holes in trees, usually up to eight meters above ground level.

The breeding season begins in April and continues through to June.  After a gestation period of up to one hundred and fifty days, usually between September and December, a single infant will be born.  Young are nursed in the tree hollows until they are about about four months old.  They continue to stay with the mother until they are about one year old.

Habitat
Dry deciduous forest and evergreen forest.
Where
Madagascar
What they eat
Mainly folivorous
Threats
The major threat is habit loss and degredation form slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging and charcoal burning.The Northern Sportive Lemur is a niche species.  Natural predators include Sanzinia madagascariensis, the Malagasy tree boa, which sneaks up on them in the day, whilst they sleep, and snatches them from their holes.
Status: Critically Endangered
The northern sportive lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  This species is also under the protection of CITES Appendix I. Only nineteen are thought to be extant in the wild, with no known animals kept in captivity. Despite conservation efforts, with so few left and none within captive breeding programs, the future of the northern sportive lemur, very sadly, does not look at all promising.

Related links
Dead Primate Walking
Lemurs Most Threatened Mammals on the Planet 
Lemurs Named World’s Most Endangered Mammals

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 54 – The Grey-shanked Douc Langur


Grey-shanked douc langur

Image: Art G via Creative Commons

Description
Mankind has done irreparable damage to these poor langurs.  Their numbers were reduced dramatically during the Vietnam War when the their habitat was heavily bombed and sprayed with defoliants like Agent Orange.  On top of that, soldiers used these harmless creatures for target practice (they sit still in the branches – they do not run away – they think they are hiding). Today, they are hunted for the pet trade, food and medicine. And, as if that were not enough, their habitat has been horribly decimated over recent years.

Even more recently, in 2012, two grey-shanked douc langurs were brutally tortured and killed, for fun, and a series of images of these disturbing and horrific actions were posted on the Facebook page of Vietnamese soldier, Nguyen Van Quang.  One was a pregnant female.  [1]  This is humanity at its absolute lowest.  And, the deed has gone virtually unpunished.  Vietnam should hold its head in shame.

These acts of killing are not isolated.  Shortly afterwards, a man identified as Bui Van Ngay was arrested for killing eighteen langurs in Vietnam’s Bu Gia Map National Park.

Only man is responsible for the decline of this species.  Their numbers have now plunged to less than seven hundred individuals.

Grey-shanked douc langurs have light grey coats with pale undersides.  They have black hands and black feet, and the lower legs are dark grey.  They have a rusty-red  ‘bib’ around the neck and a white throat with long white whiskers on the chin.  Their faces are pale orange. They weigh between eighteen and twenty-four pounds  (male to female) and their bodies and tails grow to roughly the same length of twenty-nine inches.

They are diurnal and arboreal.  They move by leaping and brachiating through the trees. They live in groups of four to fifteen individuals (these numbers were once much higher) where the males are the dominant members.  They communicate by touch, sound and visual signs.

The breeding season runs from August to December.  There is a gestation period of up to one hundred and ninety days, and births will occur between January and August.  One baby will be born weighing, at most, a mere seven hundred and twenty grammes.

Habitat
Evergreen and semi-evergreen primary rainforests.
Where
Central Highlands of Vietnam
What they eat
Primarily folivorous, although plant buds, fruits that haven’t ripened, seeds and flowers are also eaten.  They don’t drink water unless they are on the ground, otherwise they get all the water they need from the food that is consumed.
Threats
Man is the greatest predator of the species. Through logging and agricultural conversion man has all but destroyed the habitat of the grey-shanked douc langur.   He has callously and unremittingly hunted this little monkey for food and traditional medicine.   Upon seeing humans,  grey-shanked douc langurs are known to hide unmoving in the trees instead of  beating a hasty retreat.   This has made them an easy target for cold-blooded, grasping hunters.
Status:  Critically Endangered
The grey-shanked douc langur is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as critically endangered.  It is one of “The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates.”   This species is listed in CITES Appendix I, and listed on Appendix 1B of Decree 32 (2006) in Viet Nam.  The grey-shanked douc langurs live primarily in protected areas, but the law enforcers are neglectful, leaving the species vulnerable.  Currently, the population is estimated to be less than seven hundred individuals.   Global response to the douc’s dilemma has been overwhelming. From the World Wild Life Fund to the Frankfurt Zoological Society and over to Vietnam itself, much is now being done to save this species. Tragic as the event may have been, not only did the torture and killings of the grey-shanked douc langurs in Vietnam spark universal outrage, it also drew the everyday world’s attention to the plight of this endearing little primate. So now, there is much support all round.

“Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it”
Mark Twain