ANKARANA SPORTIVE LEMUR
Geographic Distribution and Habitat
The Ankarana sportive lemur is one of many sportive lemur species endemic to Madagascar. In particular, this little lemur is found in northern Madagascar in the damp evergreen forests and dry lowland forests of Ankarana, Andrafiamena, and Analamerana.
Many range boundaries of sportive lemurs remain unknown.
Size, Weight, and Lifespan
Ankarana sportive lemurs weigh 1.65 pounds (750 g) on average and have a head-to-body length of about 11 inches (53 cm), with an added 10 inches (25 cm) of tail. They are one of the smaller sportive lemur species.
Members of the genus Lepilemur have lived as long as 8 years in the wild and 15 years in captivity.
The Ankarana sportive lemur is rather mouse-like in appearance, with a narrow face, big, round ears, and bulging orange eyes, which are undoubtedly helpful for their nocturnal lifestyle.
Their pelage (coat) is light gray-ish brown with a gray underside. They have a dark stripe along their spine and their bushy tails are mostly light brown. They have long fingers with wide finger pads used for gripping.
What Does It Mean?
A field of study that deals with chromosomes and related abnormalities.
Native or restricted to a certain area or country.
Genus (plural, genera):
A biological classification, or ranking, of living beings that includes a group(s) of species that are structurally similar or “related” to one another through evolution.
An animal that feeds on plants.
The fur, hair, or wool of a mammal.
Occurring or living in the same area; overlapping in distribution.
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A study in Montagne d’Ambre National Park found that Ankarana sportive lemurs eat a higher proportion of fruits during the rainy season when they are abundant. They consume mostly leaves during the dry season.
Behavior and Lifestyle
The Ankarana sportive lemur was not recognized as unique from Sahafary sportive lemurs (Lepilemur septentrionalis) until cytogenetic and molecular analyses revealed their genetic differences in the early 2000’s. Due to lack of field studies, little is known about the behavior of Ankarana sportive lemurs specifically, although some assumptions can be made based upon the behaviors of the better-studied sportive lemurs found in western and southern Madagascar.
These facts are known: they are arboreal and very agile, leaping easily between trees. Nocturnal and solitary, adults remain alone during nightly bouts of foraging for leaves. During the day, they find shelter in tree holes and vine tangles.
Daily Life and Group Dynamics
Ankarana sportive lemurs prefer to live alone, except for females and their young. They are very territorial and have been observed defending their perceived boundaries against same-sex intruders.
They live sympatrically with Daraina sportive lemurs (Lepilemur milanoii) in the Andrafiamena or Anjahakely Classified Forest. It is yet unclear just how these two species share the same forest. Field studies are needed for more data.
Very little else is known about the daily life of this species.
Sportive lemurs gained their common name because of the boxer-like stance they assume when threatened.
Little information is known about the communication techniques of Ankarana sportive lemurs. It can be presumed, however, that they produce calls similar to those of other sportive lemurs. Some of those consist of an “ou-ah” sound and a high-pitched call.
Some other Lepilemurs also engage in scent-marking behavior as a way to indicate their territory range.
Reproduction and Family
Little information is known about the mating and reproductive habits of Ankarana sportive lemurs.
Comparatively, northern sportive lemurs give birth between September and December and their young are weaned at four months. Offspring are raised solely by the mother. Males breed with each female within their territory during mating season.
Ankarana sportive lemurs feed on fruits and act as seed dispersers in their region. Due to their folivorous diet, they may have an impact on the trees in their region.
They are also a prey species for native boas.
Conservation Status and Threats
Ankarana sportive lemurs are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2018). Their population trend is decreasing and, as a result of human activities, is anticipated to continue to decrease in the coming years. Major threats are forest loss, particularly for charcoal, and hunting. They are occasionally kept as pets within Madagascar.
The Madagascar ground boa is known to prey upon sportive lemurs in their sleeping sites.
In response to the demand for charcoal, the Madagascar Biodiversity Project is aiming to distribute fuel-efficient cooking stoves that require less charcoal to communities in Madagascar. This effort is also supplemented by education programs and reforestation initiatives.
There is also an attempt to introduce aquaponics in food-insecure regions of Madagascar. The production of fish and plants in a more sustainable way provides food to human communities with affecting lemur habitiat or populations.
Additionally, an emergency three-year plan was enacted from 2013–16 to protect 30 important lemur forests.
Written by Rachel Heim, April 2019. Conservation status updated July 2020.