Avotra the Crowned Sifaka

    On our first Friday morning, PI Luke Dollar put on his Sunday best and headed out early for a trip to Mahajunga. He and student Martel were to meet with the governor there, to discuss issues such as the numerous police roadblocks we had encountered on our two-hour drive from Mahajunga to Ampijeroa.

 Turns out Luke never made it to Mahajunga that day, because in a village about halfway there he found this little guy sitting in the middle of the road.

He was someone's pet, but a very illegal one. This is a Propithecus verrauxi coronatus, or crowned sifaka, a critically endangered species. There are less than 1000 and possibly even less than 100 of these left in the world!

   The sifaka's owner was out of the country. Luke and Martel sedated and confiscated the sifaka, informed the local authorities, and brought him back to camp. There he was weighed and measured. On this same morning we caught Lucius the fossa - it was a very busy day!

 After we took all his data, the little sifaka had some time to shake off the effects of the sedative. Here Martel tries to get him to drink a little water.

After he recovered, we soon found out why people call them "leaping lemurs"! Sifaka are made for clinging and leaping, and are incapable of quadrapedal walking. When he made it into the dining room, the sifaka was bouncing off the walls, onto the table, breaking dishes. It became obvious very quickly that we had to "baby-proof" the room.


 The Malagasy students suggested we name the new sifaka "Avotra", Malagasy for "saved". His quickly became known by his nickname though - "Spaz". Although not the most graceful on the ground, he climbed trees with ease.

Spaz ws completely tame - it was obvious that he must have been taken from his mother and raised by people from a very young age. He was inordinately fond of rice, and one of our goals was to wean him onto edible leaves around camp.

He quickly adopted us as his "group", and slept in a mango tree above Luke's tent at night. During the day he was free to wander camp and graze.

What will happen to the sifaka? When I left camp, the paperwork was being filed to send him to a zoo run by the Duke Primate Center at Ivoloine in Madagascar. Hopefully he will have a good home there. He's too habitutated to humans to ever be returned to the wild. We sure all came to really like the little guy though.