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Sifakas Avahis and Indris: Indriidae

Milne-edwards's Sifaka (propithecus Edwardsi): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The Milne-Edwards's sifaka is black or dark brown with a large whitish patch on its lower back. Its fur is long and soft, and its face is hairless and black. Front legs are short, and hind limbs large and strong. Eye color may be orange. Males and females look alike. Adult weight is 12.3 pounds (5.6 kilograms). Head and body length is 18.9 inches (48 centimeters), with a long tail used for balancing. Sifaka males and females have scent glands for marking territory.

Geographic range: These sifakas live on the southeastern coast of Madagascar.

Habitat: Milne-Edwards's sifaka is found in moist, humid mountain rainforests.

Milne-Edwards's sifakas sleep high in the trees at night. When they're on the ground, they hop in an upright position, holding their arms over their heads for balance. (Illustration by Gillian Harris. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Milne-Edwards's sifaka eats fruits, fruit seeds, leaves, and flowers.

Behavior and reproduction: The Milne-Edwards's sifaka is diurnal, or active during daylight hours. It travels by leaping and clinging onto trees. It usually feeds within large trees, but may food search on the ground. On the ground, sifakas hop on their hind legs in an upright position, holding arms above their heads for balance. At night they sleep with a social group high in the trees. Sleeping locations can change each night to avoid predators.

Social groups have up to ten members. These groups may be all male, all female, or mixed. Females are dominant, leading their group and demanding first choice of food. However, males defend the group against large raptors, such as hawks and eagles.

Sifakas are mature at four to five years old. Females may mate with several males. One infant is born every two years. Newborns weigh 4.4 ounces (125 grams). They cling to the mother's underside for their first month, then ride on her back for the next four months. Infant mortality, or death rate, is high.

Milne-Edwards's sifakas have several vocalizations, or sounds. The loud alarm barking sound warning about bird predators may last up to fifteen minutes. A short, quick "zusss" call warns of ground predators, or enemies. Quiet "moos" tell of a group's current location. Lost sifakas give a long, warbling whistle to announce where they are.

Milne-Edwards's sifakas and people: In some areas, it is forbidden by local custom to hunt sifakas because they resemble humans.

Conservation status: Though not listed as Threatened, Milne-Edwards's sifakas may become threatened due to hunting, logging, firewood use, land clearing to provide pasture for livestock, and slash-and-burn agriculture. It has so far been impossible to keep and breed this sifaka in captivity. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsSifakas Avahis and Indris: Indriidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Indriids And People, Milne-edwards's Sifaka (propithecus Edwardsi): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS