Notes from the Field: Dwarf and mouse lemur research in Anjajavy, Madagascar

by Marina Blanco, Ph.D.
Post-Doctoral Project Coordinator, DLC-SAVA Conservation

A dwarf lemur receives a radio collar. Scroll down for more photos.

We recently conducted a research mission at Anjajavy, targeting two small-bodied nocturnal lemurs: Microcebus (mouse lemurs) and Cheirogaleus (dwarf lemurs). Broadly speaking, there are two projects we are interested in:

(1) we would like to include Anjajavy’s mouse lemurs to our comprehensive database to help elucidate the biogeography of Microcebus, one of the most speciose groups within the lemurs. This would include studying the population structure and dynamics at a micro- and macro-geographic levels (e.g., are there more than one species at the site? how genetically isolated are mouse lemur populations from each other?); and

(2) we would also want to include Anjajavy’s dwarf lemurs in our ongoing hibernation project, noting that dwarf lemurs are the only obligatory primate hibernators. We have been studying dwarf lemurs under different environmental conditions, including those from cold high-altitude rainforests, and those from “desert-like” dry forests of western Madagascar experiencing high daily temperature fluctuations. Anjajavy’s dry deciduous forest, with relatively warm weather year-round, is an ideal site to investigate the metabolic changes during the hibernation season, where relatively warm ambient temperature may limit energetic savings, but allow certain physiological functions to occur during hibernation.

During our short stay, we camped in the Antafimohara area where we set live-traps to capture these elusive creatures. Our team included an excellent cook, Celestine; a hardworking and athletic guide, Jean Chris; two enthusiastic and very resourceful research assistants (who are leading their own research projects at Anjajavy), Elodi and Hoby; and myself, representing the Duke Lemur Center.

During our stay we captured 5 mouse lemurs and 3 dwarf lemurs. We collected biological samples from all captures that will be soon analyzed to ID species (which are unconfirmed for these lemurs). Additionally, we fitted dwarf lemurs with small radio collars to be able to locate them later this year, when they are expected to be hibernating. We also set a few wooden boxes in the forest, with the hopes that some dwarf lemurs will adopt them as “hibernacula” in the next few weeks. If so, the retrieval of a hibernating lemur from the box, to conduct further studies, would be easy and convenient. We shall return in a few months — we will keep you posted!

Published April 6, 2018.

The Anajavy team: Elodi, Hoby, Celestine, and Jean Chris.

Setting live-traps for small lemurs.

Marina handles a mouse lemur in the field lab.

Mouse lemurs from Anjajavy.

Another dwarf lemur receives a radio collar.

A dwarf lemur fitted with a new radio collar released back into the forest.

Another dwarf lemur back to the forest.

The team tracking radio collared dwarf lemurs, then recording their locations with GPS.

One of the boxes placed in the forest as a “hibernaculum” offering.