Greene, L. K., Andriambeloson, J.-B., Blanco, M. B. et al. 2023. Forest access restores foraging and ranging behavior in captive sifakas. Zoo Biology 42(2), 209–222.

Captive wildlife benefit from ecologically informed management strategies that promote natural behaviors. The Duke Lemur Center has pioneered husbandry programs rooted in species’ ecology for a diversity of lemurs, including housing social groups in multiacre forest enclosures. We systematically document the foraging and ranging patterns of Coquerel’s sifakas (Propithecus coquereli) living in these forest enclosures. Coquerel’s sifakas are seasonal frugo-folivores that exhibit striking feeding flexibility in the wild. They are also one of the few members of the Indriidae family to persist in captivity. During all-day follows in the spring and summer of 2 consecutive years, we tracked the behavior of 14 sifakas in six forest enclosures. The sifakas’ ranging and foraging patterns reflected those of wild sifakas in western Madagascar: On average, DLC sifakas occupied 3-day home ranges of 1.2 ha, traveled 473 m/day, and spent 26% of their time foraging for wild foodstuffs. The sifakas foraged most for young and mature leaves, fruits, nuts, and flowers from 39 plant species, especially red maple (Acer rubrum), tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), grapevine (Vitis rotundifolia), hickory (Carya spp.), and white oak (Quercus alba). Foraging patterns varied across seasons, enclosure areas, and groups, potentially reflecting differences in phenology, microhabitats, and individual preferences. While demonstrating that captive-bred primates express wild-like behaviors under ecologically relevant conditions, our results underscore the feeding flexibility of the Coquerel’s sifaka. Captive wildlife exhibiting the range of species-specific behaviors are key resources for ecological research and might be best suited for future reintroductions.

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