The latest individual to receive funding from the Alpkit Foundation is Caitlin. She would like to study the critically endangered blue-eyed black lemur. With some accounts estimating fewer than 2,300 individuals left in the wild, the blue-eyed black lemur of Madagascar is one of the most threatened primates to date. Due to a significant increase in deforestation, blue-eyed black lemurs and neighbouring black lemurs are being forced into closer contact, drastically increasing the chances of interbreeding. Caitlin will be studying the lemurs living in the Manongarivo Special Reserve for 5 months, attempting to find ways to better protect the species.
Caitlin explains why she is undertaking the project. “The blue-eyed black lemur of northwest Madagascar is arguably one of the most threatened lemur species to date. It is classified as Critically Endangered and listed as a Top 25 Most Endangered Primate. The Andranomalaza River is the northern geographic barrier for this lemur. As the river tapers off in the east, blue-eyed black lemur distribution begins to overlap in a contact zone with the more abundant black lemur. Interbreeding, of blue-eyed black lemurs with black lemurs has been reported in the Manongarivo Special Reserve and surrounding areas, although this has not been studied in any detail. Interbreeding poses the possibility of permanent loss of species-specific behaviours, or the extinction of one or both lemur species at the local level. This outlook is especially worrisome for the blue-eyed black lemur, which is experiencing increased habitat destruction and hunting pressures. Determining whether or not interbreeding is occurring will be the first step towards modifying current management policies for these two species. To do this, I will be investigating the behaviours, vocalisations, and genomics of lemurs living in the Manongarivo Special Reserve.”
During her time in Madagascar, Caitlin will hire two upcoming Malagasy Masters students to aid data collection. Funding is therefore needed to buy necessary equipment for the students working on the project. More importantly though, this equipment can then be used for their future studies and careers.