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Title: Ecology and conservation of the southern woolly lemur (Avahi meridionalis) in the Tsitongambarika Protected Area
Author: Balestri, Michela
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 7425
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2018
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Recent studies question the assumption that folivorous primates rely on ubiquitous and evenly distributed food resources with a low and uniform nutritional quality. They suggest that folivores experience scramble competition and their resources vary in quality, availability, and spatial distribution. Woolly lemurs, Avahi sp., are the only true nocturnal folivorous primates. This study aims to explore whether A. meridionalis experiences food constraints in the Tsitongambarika lowland rainforest of south-east Madagascar, a habitat that is expected to have low variation in quality, availability, and spatial distribution of leaves. I collected data from May 2015 to July 2016 at Ampasy, north of the Tsitongambarika Protected Area, on abundance of lemur species, and ranging pattern, sleeping site selection, diet, and activity pattern of A. meridionalis. I delivered four lessons to teachers in the municipality that hosts Ampasy to raise awareness on the threats that lemurs and forests are facing, and assessed the effective retention of knowledge after one year. The density of the nocturnal folivore Lepilemur fleuretae was very high, suggesting a possible scramble competition with A. meridionalis. Avahi meridionalis adopted a resource-maximising strategy in terms of annual ranges, suggesting a high-quality habitat, and a time-minimising strategy in terms of daily distances travelled, sleeping site selection, and dietary choices, suggesting a seasonal fluctuation of resources. The competition with L. fleuretae may explain the dietary breadth reduction during the lean season and the opportunistic cathemeral activity that I found in A. meridionalis. Teachers retained most of the information provided, which can thus be transferred to students. This is the first step to favour a change in attitude by the local community in the area. My results on A. meridionalis showed several lines of evidence to support the hypothesis that folivores experience similar food constraints to frugivores.
Supervisor: Donati, Giuseppe ; Nekaris, Anna 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