About 88 million years ago the island of Madagascar broke off from mainland Africa. Since then Madagascar has become the shining example of how isolation affects evolution. Today Madagascar is considered one of the worlds 34 biological hotspots, with 90% of its wildlife found nowhere else in the world. The wildlife of Madagascar is strange, beautiful and interesting, but more importantly it can teach us about ourselves.
The lemurs are a group of primates unique to Madagascar, found nowhere else in the world. Sadly anthropogenic threats, such as rapid habitat loss and direct hunting, are increasing extinction risks for these lemurs. Larger bodied animals with slow life histories and specialized dietary requirements are especially susceptible to population decline and extinction. Dr. Jody Weir’s research examines the behavioural ecology of endangered species with the goal of identifying existing and potential anthropogenic threats to their survival.
The core of Dr. Weir’s work is focused on feeding ontogeny and the behavioural, morphological and digestive processes that all mammals progress through from birth, when they are completely dependent on their mothers, until they become independent. Dr. Weir’s research also focuses on the types of feeding and infant care strategies employed by lactating females and how these compare between species, habitats and individuals.
Currently her research program compares feeding ontogeny of infants, maternal feeding and infant care strategies in the two largest extant lemurs: the indri (Indri indri) and diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema). Attempts to keep either species in captivity have been unsuccessful and hence there are currently no breeding programs for either of these Critically Endangered species. Therefore her research in the Maromizaha forest is valuable to both conservation research and planning, including identifying habitat restoration and protection priorities and developing breeding programs for these species.
As of 2018 Maromizaha is the proud home of 4 new baby sifakas! These four sifaka were born into habituated groups just this year. The names of the baby lemurs are Akondro (Banana), Mananasy (Pineapple), Guavy (Guava) and Papay (Papaya). Our team of local assistants have been following these infants and their mothers since the end of June and recording their behaviors, including the types of foods they eat, and entering this information into Excel spreadsheets to email to us for further analysis.
In September 2018 the project was proud to offer the opportunity to host a group of American Study Abroad students at Maromizaha. The students all saw many species of lemurs and other wildlife, they also participated in the ZAZA Scholarship Ceremony in the village. The students also all contributed funds towards the Scholarship, allowing us to provide Herve, one of the members of our team, the opportunity to attend language school. They also planted native trees around the camp, leaving the forest even more beautiful. We hope some of them are able to make it back one day.
Both the Diademed Sifaka and the Indri are considered to be critically endangered by the IUCN. Both of these species are considered the two largest lemurs in the world. Like all lemurs they are only found in Madagascar, only proving to us why their preservation and research must be prioritized. In order to continue these studies, preserve the land and allow the unbelievable opportunity for future researchers and other students to experience the magic of Maromizaha we hope you would kindly consider donating to our humble cause.
If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us. Thank you so much for your time and we hope you are inspired to help preserve this beautiful land, wildlife and cause.