Antohakalava Forest is a new protected area and one of the largest privately owned conservation sites in Madagascar. Most of the 6.5 sq km is primary rainforest. Mr. John Ratombo established this reserve several years ago in order to protect the forested hills surrounding his vanilla plantation near (but outside) the Makira Natural Park. Previous surveys by our team and Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo) identified several lemur species that are critically endangered, a conservation status categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
Our team observed one silky sifaka here in 2007, but none have been confirmed since. Unfortunately, none were confirmed during this survey, although a local guide saw a group of two silkies a few months before our survey. However, several groups of critically endangered Indri were found in addition to unusual mostly white ruffed lemurs within the same group as red ruffed lemurs (Varecia rubra). It is unclear to what species the white ruffed lemurs belong or what accounts for their unusual coloration. Fecal samples were collected and shared with San Diego Zoo Global which is now conducting a large population genetics study of Varecia in northeastern Madagascar.
LCF’s field surveys in Madagascar are critical to our mission of saving lemurs since isolated small populations of rare lemurs still remain to be discovered outside of the protected areas. The presence of our research team in these remote areas helps to reduce disturbance and train local guides as well as generating a considerable amount of local income for all participants.