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Title: Ecological flexibility and conservation of Fleurette's sportive lemur, Lepilemur fleuretae, in the lowland rainforest of Ampasy, Tsitongambarika Protected Area
Author: Campera, Marco
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 7417
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2018
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Ecological flexibility entails an expansion of niche breadth in response to different environmental conditions. Sportive lemurs Lepilemur spp. are known to minimise energetic costs via short distances travelled, small home ranges, increased resting time, and low metabolic rates. Very little information, however, is available in the eastern rainforest, the habitat where this genus has its highest diversity. I investigate whether L. fleuretae inhabiting Tsitongambarika (TGK), the southernmost lowland rainforest in Madagascar, shows similar behavioural and ecological adaptations to the sportive lemurs inhabiting dry and deciduous forests. I collected data from July 2015 to July 2016 at Ampasy, northernmost portion of TGK. To understand patterns of resource availability, I collected phenological data on 200 tree species. I explored the ecology of L. fleuretae by gathering data on its diet, ranging patterns, and by reconstructing the activity profiles via a novel method, the unsupervised learning algorithm on accelerometer data. I estimated the anthropogenic pressure in the area and I evaluated whether local management and researchers' presence had an effect in decreasing it. Lepilemur fleuretae at Ampasy is hyperactive when compared to other species of this genus, with longer distances travelled, larger home ranges, and less time spent resting. The species seems to reduce the competition with the folivorous A. meridionalis by including a higher proportion of fruits and flowers in their diet than other sportive lemurs. The activity of L. fleuretae is influenced by photoperiod and moon luminosity, indicating the importance of synchronizing activities with the seasonal resource availability. A combination of local management and related development strategies, such as the installation of a research station, can assist in preserving the TGK forest. My results on L. fleuretae unveiled the flexibility of the genus Lepilemur and its ability to adapt to different habitats. This study showed that the use of automatic loggers such as accelerometers can provide novel information on cryptic species difficul to achieve via direct observations. The use of these devices may shed the light on new behavioural and ecological patterns and lead to a new approach on the study of cryptic animals.
Supervisor: Donati, Giuseppe ; Nijman, Vincent Sponsor: Rufford Foundation ; Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund ; Primate Conservation Inc. ; Conservation International Primate Action Fund ; Primate Society of Great Britain
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral