Milne-Edward’s Sifaka, Propithecus edwardsi

Milne-Edward’s sifaka (Propithecus edwardsi), also known as Milne-Edwards simpona, is native only to the island of Madagascar. It resides on the coast, in the southeastern forests of the island. They prefer habitats within altitudes of 2,000 to 5,200 feet in primary and secondary rainforests. The Onive River and the Mangoro River make up the borders of the northern part of this lemurs range. Its range extends south to the Rienana River and Andringitra National Park. It shares this range with many lemur species, including the Greater wooly lemur, the red-bellied lemur, and the aye-aye.

Milne-Edward’s sifaka is the second largest sifaka within its genus, and an adult male can weigh up to thirteen pounds. Females are slightly larger than males, weighing an average of 13.9 pounds and can have an average body length of up to 18.8 inches, while males have a body length of 18.7 inches. These body lengths do not include the tail, which can reach an average length of 17.9 inches.

The soft fur of Milne-Edward’s sifaka is mainly dark brown or black in color. On the back is a “saddle” shaped patch of fur that is typically creamy white or light brown in color and split by a darker line of fur that reaches the base of the tail. This patch can vary between different individuals. The face is black in color and crowned with dark brown fur, and the eyes are typically reddish orange. As is typical among sifakas, Milne-Edward’s sifaka has adapted features for grooming which include a toothcomb and a toilet-claw.

The toes of Milne-Edward’s sifaka are well adapted for climbing trees, as the prehensile “thumbs” allow for a better grip. The paw pads are also specialized, having a rough texture and large size. The claws or “nails” are long and sharp and if the sifaka falls, it can dig the claws into the tree to catch itself. Unlike true lemurs, the “thumbs” of sifakas are typically longer and more curved, allowing it an overall increased grasping ability.

Milne-Edward’s sifaka is tree-dwelling, and along with adapted “hand” features, has many other features that aid in its arboreal life style; this sifaka’s coordination and agility allow it to move through the trees with relative ease. It will remain in an upright position while leaping through and climbing trees, and when jumping from tree to tree, it will twist its body in a 180-degree angle, so that it ends up facing its destination. In order to accomplish this, it moves it arms downward and swings its tail to help balance itself and land properly with its hind feet first. It is thought that this sifaka can leap up to 33 feet in the air, although it rarely explores the ground, and when it is necessary to do so, it will use a sideways hop.

Milne-Edward’s sifaka, like other sifakas, are active during the day and prefer to live in groups that may contain a mixture of female and male individuals. Females take precedence over males, another common occurrence among lemurs. Each group can contain up to nine sifakas, and the entire group will take part in protection from predators. It is thought that social structure depends heavily on competition for food resources, mating, and protection. Typically, both males and females will leave the group they were born in to join another, with males leaving at either a young age or when they are fully-grown and females preferring to leave as adolescents.

At two through three years of age, Milne-Edward’s sifaka is able to mate and will do so only once a year during the months of December to January. Mothers give birth to one baby between the months of May and July. The diet of this sifaka consists mainly of leaves and seeds, both mature and young. They will also eat fruits and flowers and supplement nutrients by foraging for dirt and fungus. While doing this, it can travel as far as 2,200 feet in one day.

Research is being conducted on Milne-Edward’s sifaka, primarily at the Ranomafana National Park. Although no lemurs have been captured for study, most of them have been collared and lead females equipped with a tracking device. Like most lemurs, Milne-Edward’s sifaka has been listed on the IUCN Red List as “Endangered”. In 2008, it was estimated that 28,600 individuals remained of which only 3500 resided in protected areas. Hunting and habitat loss are considered its main threats, although it may also be affected by climate shifts.

Image Caption: Milne-Edward’s Sifaka, Propithecus edwardsi. Credit: Wikipedia