Locally called babakoto, the Indri is not only the world’s largest lemur (with males weighing up to 9kg) but also the outstanding icon of Andasibe. It is well known for its distinctive wailing song that can be heard up to 3 km away.
Highly arboreal and primarily folivorous (leaf-eating) Indri prefer young leaves of a wide variety of plant species, but will also feed on fruits and flowers. As in other primates, soil feeding as a potential remedy to toxins in its leafy diet has also been observed in Indri.
The Story of Babakoto
In all Indri origin myths there is some connection of the indri with humanity, usually through common ancestry. According to one, two brothers lived together in the forest until one of them decided to leave and cultivate the land. That brother became the first human, and the brother who stayed in the forest became the first indri. Until this day, the Indri always cries in mourning for his brother who went astray.
Indri live in small family groups of a monogamous couple and its offspring, and we have up to 9 groups in Analamazaotra Forest Station. Indri bear offspring every two to three years, with a single infant usually born in May or June.
Indri Monitoring and Research
Together with a group of half a dozen other Mitsinjo members, our senior Indri monitoring agent Joseph Randrianatoandro has masterly managed to habituate two of the nine wild Indri groups in Analamazaotra Forest Station.
See Joseph bear testimony to David Attenborough of his close relationship to his Indris here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Indri#p00f80mg
Several research projects on Mitsinjo’s Indri population have been conducted in collaboration with foreign researchers. These especially include studies on vocalization and spatial behaviour with the Unversity of Torino and studies on Indri health with the St. Louis Zoo and Duke Lemur Center.
Greater Bamboo Lemur
Mitsinjo’s spectacular rediscovery of the Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) in areas where it was thought extinct before has led to an ongoing research and conservation project for this species. Surveys that focus on bamboo lemurs have taken our staff around Madagascar to Tsinjoarivo, Zahamena, Kianjavato, Makira and Marolambo.
Our researchers have also set off to explore the spectacular meandering canyons, cliffs, lake-filled ravines and gallery forests of the Makay massif in Madagascar’s dry southwest. Invited by Naturevolution, a French organization promoting the preservation of the Makay, Mitsinjo coordination Rainer Dolch and Head of Research Tiana Ratolojanahary tracked down a still unkown cliff-dwelling population (species?) of bamboo lemur. You can follow their expedition to the Makay here http://www.universcience.tv/media/4160/primatologue-dans-le-makay.html
Lemur research not only focuses on the large species such as Indri or rare ones like the Greater Bamboo Lemur, but new insights also often come from the small and supposedly unspectacular species.
For instance, Andasibe’s mouse lemurs proved to be a previously undescribed species, now called Goodman’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara). This was only detected in 2005 after Mitsinjo – in agreement with the Malagasy authorities – caught several animals for Zoo Zurich that formed the stock of the captive mouse lemur breeding program at their Masoala exhibit.
Together with Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership and Madagascar National Parks, Mitsinjo has contributed to the reintroduction of the Diademed Sifaka (Propithecus diadema) into Analamazaotra forest in 2006 where it had been extinct since the late 1970s. We wish this new population well and hope it will thrive. You can watch the release of these beautiful animals here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyFjOoN5Bhs or here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y23Xa4cD99Q
We have also contributed to the first in-depth study on the Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur (Allocebus trichotis), carried out in Analamazaotra forest in 2007 with Karla Biebouw of Oxford Brookes University. This lemur is nocturnal. Solitary at night, the Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur aggregates with conspecifics sleeping in tree holes during the day. They also appear to form sleeping associations with White-tailed Tree Rats (Brachytarsomys albicauda).