Indri (Indri indri) is the largest extant lemur species and the genus is monotypic. They are highly recognizable due to their distinct black and white pelage, black tufted ears, vestigial tail and unmistakable male/female duetting long calls. No captive populations of indri exist thereby increasing the need for conservation of their natural habitats. The species is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List and their population is decreasing (Andraniarivo et al, 2008). This is due to multiple anthropogenic disturbances such as the practice of 'tavy' (slash and burn farming) that has already reduced the island's forests by over 85%, hunting for bushmeat and severe habitat fragmentation that creates a series of small, isolated populations. Although the traditional Malagasy 'fady' (taboo) against eating indri has offered them some protection from hunting pressures in the past, they are now hunted for their skins and meat at levels that have been described as unsustainable (Mittermeier et al, 1994; Golden, 2005). Due to these factors, the Indri has been named one of the world’s 25 Most Endangered Primates (Mittermeier et al, 2012). The indri has been the proposed flagship species in a recommended conservation campaign to reduce hunting (Andraniarivo et al, 2008). The IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group's Lemur Action Plan has given I. indri the highest conservation priority its small and fragmented population, taxonomic uniqueness and high level of threat to its existence even in protected areas (Mittermeier et al, 1994).
We are currently following six indri groups in Betampona Nature Reserve (BNR), one of the last remaining tracts of eastern lowland rainforest in Madagascar (Green and Sussman, 1994). We are approaching the conservation of I. indri in a variety of complementary ways and the data set generated from this research will be used to compare feeding behaviors; resource distribution and home range use to previous studies at two indri sites, Mantadia and Andosibe An-ala near the southern extent of the species range (Pollock, 1975; Powzyk, 1997). This comparative data set will be used to measure between site differences in resource use and availability, ranging behavior, and inter-and intra-specific interactions. Behavioral data and GIS analysis of group ranging patterns from our study will be combined with a concurrent and complementary genetic assessment of the diurnal lemurs in BNR that includes an assessment of the relatedness of indri at the site. This combined dataset will be the first to integrate behavioral field data, group demography and genetic relatedness in indri to describe the social organization, mating system and dispersal patterns.
Since data collection began in February 2013, we have already observed previously unreported indri social behaviors. Indri are seasonal breeders and the birthing season is May-June. We are anxiously hoping for the arrival of new infants any day. Check back for updates on births and photos of infants!
Project 12254281 location - Madagascar, Africa