Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments

  Research, Education and Community Outreach

    With a focus on Madagascar

Greater Bamboo Lemur Conservation Project

Following the discovery of a large group of Greater Bamboo Lemurs (Prolemur simus) by an ICTE team in 2007, Eileen Larney and Dr. Patricia Wright returned to Mahasoa agricultural plantation in August 2008 to establish the Greater Bamboo Lemur Conservation Project (GBLCP). While we continue our work in this region to monitor and protect P. simus and its habitat and to examine the potential of development projects, unfortunately the current political turmoil in Madagascar has made it impossible to continue with the land acquisition in collaboration with at this time. However, please continue reading for more about our progress thus far and future initiatives. Also, please donate (see links above and below) to help save simus and improve the local communities' livelihood through our various projects.

Greater Bamboo Lemurs (Prolemur simus)

Prolemur simus is one of the most endangered primates in the world. Despite several recent discoveries of new populations over the past two years, the total number still surviving in the wild is estimated at a maximum of 100-150 individuals. Like many other lemurs, climate change, destruction of habitat (due to slash and burn agriculture (or tavy), illegal logging, unsustainable bamboo use, and mining), and hunting severely threaten this genus. Since these lemurs have a specialist diet, consisting of bamboo, they are especially vulnerable to extinction due to their need for reliable access to bamboo as a food source, as well as their need for consistent access to water sources during the dry seasons. In addition, the remaining populations are small and genetically isolated. However, researchers throughout Madagascar are taking immediate action to help save the known populations. Please continue reading to learn what we are doing in Ivato commune and how you can help save this genus on the brink of extinction.

Local Collaboration

In August 2008 we began this project by meeting with 37 villages to discuss the needs of each village (taking into consideration both men and women and the heads of villages who attended these meetings). After hours of discussion the following needs of the community were targeted:

Food security

Tree nurseries

Vegetable cultivation

Micro dams

Fish culture

Reforestation with native plant species

In December 2008, we conducted a reforestation and conservation training workshop, teaching locals about the importance of trees for their own livelihoods, as well as for the remaining animals. We have had great success and the community, as a whole, is eager to help endemic reforestation efforts, find alternatives to local slash and burn practices and connect existing forest fragments all the way to the corridor. We have found a local native seed source to collect from in-season fruits, established our first tree nursery and have planted native saplings at the edge of the group's current range where one can actually see the existing forest corridor (our goal) in the distance. Ivato villagers have formed an association to look after the reforestation project and are eager to assist in training other villages throughout the commune. Please donate to our reforestation efforts to help save simus, while also reducing your carbon footprint.

P. simus in Mahasoa

With the assistance of two local guides, Solo & Momo, the group of greater bamboo lemurs has been followed daily since August and consists of 27 members including 6 infants born to the group in fall 2008. Now we are able to collect important data on their ranging, behavior and ecology. All individuals in this population belong to one large group, which fissions (splits up) for a day or so at a time dependent on the availability of food resources (e.g., new bamboo shoots which are dispersed). While this group appears to behave in a way that is comparable to other populations in most regards (sociality, resting, vocal communication), they feed on a different lowland species of bamboo and incorporate several fruits from crops (e.g., coffee and ginger) into their diet in times of bamboo shoot scarcity. Also, this population of the normally arboreal genus spends a significant amount of time traveling on the ground (walking and running) to compensate for the fragmented landscape and to get between bamboo patches. Further research will determine how habitat alteration has affected the behavior of Prolemur simus, however it seems that these lemurs are capable of adapting to a reasonable amount of disturbance with behavioral modifications.

Future Initiatives

At the request of the local community, we began exploring possible dam maintenance and infrastructure to improve rice intensification in the existing fields. It was educational for the local population to learn how soil erosion from the deforested slopes negatively impacts the rivers running into their crop fields. Thus, the villagers are excited to reforest to ensure ample water supplies for future generations. We are working closely with Malagasy engineers to prioritize areas in most need of improved irrigation.

Future training workshops will include composting, vegetable gardens and beekeeping and we are expanding our native tree nursery and exploration of dam infrastructure. In turn, the local community has agreed to halt burning within the greater bamboo lemur group's range.

In order to make this happen we need your help. Please donate!

Inquiries about donating to ICTE's Greater Bamboo Lemur project in the Mahasoa and Morafeno regions can be directed to:

Lauren Donovan, ICTE Program Assistant
Phone: +1 (631) 632-9440
Fax: +1 (631) 632-7692

Donations by check can be made out to 'Research Foundation - SUNY' and mailed to:

The Greater Bamboo Lemur Conservation Project
Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (ICTE)
SBS Building, 5th Floor, N-537
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-4364