Wildlife conservation often focuses on establishing protected areas, however, these conservation zones are frequently developed without adequate knowledge of the movement patterns of the species they are designed to protect. Understanding movement and foraging patterns of species in dynamic and diverse habitats can allow managers to develop more effective conservation plans. Threatened lemurs in Madagascar are an example where management plans and protected areas are typically created to encompass large, remaining forests rather than the resource needs of the target species.
To gain an understanding of golden-crowned sifaka ( Propithecus tattersalli ) movement patterns, including space use and habitat selection, across their range of inhabited forest types, we combined behavior data with Dynamic Brownian Bridge Movement Models and Resource Selection Functions. We also examined the influence of abiotic, biotic, and anthropogenic factors on home range size, movement rates, and foraging patterns.
We found that home range size and movement rates differed between seasons, with increased core area size and movement in the rainy season. Forest type also played a role in foraging behavior with lemur groups in humid forest avoiding roads in both seasons, groups in the dry deciduous forest avoiding road networks in the rainy season, and groups in the moderate evergreen forest displaying no selection or avoidance of road networks while foraging.
Our study illustrates the importance of studying primate groups across seasons as well as across forest types, as developing conservation plans as a single snapshot can give an inaccurate assessment of their natural behavior and resources needs. More specifically, by understanding how forest type influences golden-crowned sifaka movement and foraging behavior, we can make conservation management plans specific to the individual forest types they inhabit (humid, moderate evergreen, dry deciduous, littoral, etc.), rather than the region as a whole.