The Effects of Habitat Disturbance on Lemurs at Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar
The alarming rate of deforestation in Madagascar is driving some endemic primates to extinction. Surprisingly, anthropogenic habitat disturbance is not always deleterious. The effect of disturbance on lemur abundance may be related to diet, with frugivorous species more prone to population declines than folivores or insectivores. To test the effects of disturbance on lemur abundance and group size, we surveyed 2 sites within contiguous forest at Ranomafana National Park, 1 lightly disturbed primary forest (Vato) and 1 heavily logged forest (Tala). We quantified forest structure variables along 6 survey routes and conducted 68 diurnal and 42 nocturnal lemur surveys. Canopy closure, canopy height, and understory visibility were greater in Vato than in Tala. We encountered 2 frugivorous lemurs ( Eulemur rufifrons , Varecia variegata ) and 1 folivore ( Avahi peyrierasi ) significantly more frequently in Vato than in Tala, whereas the opposite was true for the insectivorous Microcebus rufus . Rates did not differ statistically for 1 frugivore ( Eulemur rubriventer ) and 2 folivores ( Propithecus edwardsi , Hapalemur griseus ). Comparisons across the 6 survey routes suggest that the abundance was heterogeneous within as well as between sites. Neither group size nor composition differed between sites. Encounter rates for Varecia variegata were positively related to canopy closure, and encounter rates for Avahi peyrierasi were positively related to canopy height. Encounter rates for Microcebus rufus were negatively related to canopy closure, height, and understory visibility. Similar to other studies, the results suggest that some lemurs, including folivores, may cope with anthropogenic disturbance better than others, including some frugivores. Lemur abundance is heterogeneous, though, even on small spatial scales.