This website is a central repository for information about the silky sifaka.  Since 2001, projects have focused on behavioral ecology, communication, and conservation. Volunteer field research assistantships are occasionally available.

Silky sifakas (Propithecus candidus) are amongst the rarest mammals on earth, and are listed as one of the World’s Top 25 Most Critically Endangered Primates. Global population size is roughly estimated between only 300 and 2000 total remaining individuals. They are only found within a few protected areas in the rainforests of north-eastern Madagascar: Marojejy National ParkAnjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve, and the Makira Conservation Site. Silky sifakas are the flag-ship species for these protected areas, particularly for Marojejy which has recently been inaugurated as part of a World Heritage Site Cluster. Silky sifakas have never survived in captivity probably due to their highly specialized folivorous diet.

In January 2012, the Duke Lemur Center initiated the SAVA Conservation Project, a new community-based conservation initiative in northeastern Madagascar. The Duke Lemur Center (DLC) is affiliated with Duke University in the USA (Durham, NC). For more than forty years, the DLC has been the world's leading institution for research on lemur health, breeding, genetics, behavioral biology, and cognition. As one of the founding members of the Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG), which manages ParcIvoloina and Betampona Reserve, Duke has been working to protect Madagascarís environment for more than twenty years.

The SAVA region was chosen as the focus of this new initiative because of its tremendous biodiversity and the large amounts of unique mountainous rainforest contained within Marojejy National Park and Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve. These two reserves alone cover more than 830km2. The rise of habitat disturbance (such as illegal logging of precious hardwood, bushmeat hunting, and slash-and-burn agriculture) in this region since the political crisis began in 2009, as well as the limited presence of environmental ngo's in the region, further motivated the project. The silky sifaka lemur (Propithecuscandidus), one of the rarest mammals in the world with less than 2000 individuals remaining, is one of the key flagship species.

Based in Sambava, where the new office is found, the project has followed a multi-faceted community-based approach to biodiversity conservation which is similar to that used by the MFG in the Toamasina region. The extensive environmental education program includes both structured educational visits to Marojejy National Park with local student groups as well as a teacher training program which will introduce a 68-page environmental education manual as part of the required primary school curriculum in dozens of schools. To diminish bushmeat hunting, fish farming of a locally endemic Paratilapia species ("fony") is being introduced as an alternative protein and income source by a local specialist in the practice. Restocking of this endangered species into local rivers is also helping to reestablish wild populations. Reforestation campaigns (in collaboration with the Belgian ngo "Graine de Vie") have been established in several villages around Marojejy National Park with approximately 10,000 seedlings (fast growing endemics and fruit trees) being planted annually in each village. Direct collaboration with Madagascar National Parks includes improving forest monitoring and boundary demarcation at Marojejy NP,among other activities. Lemur research and conservation projects have been undertaken with Duke University undergraduate and Master's students.

To learn more about this project contact Dr. Erik Patel (patel.erik@gmail.com), SAVA Conservations Post-Doctoral Project Director or Project ManagerLantoAndrianandrasana(alantoharivelo@yahoo.fr). Recent Newsletters and blogs can be found on the Duke Lemur Center website: http://lemur.duke.edu/conservation/

Smithsonian