Isabel spent five months in Madagascar collecting data for her MSc by Research. She was working in the Sahamalaza Peninsula area of northwestern Madagascar, where a species of lemur – Eulemur flavifrons, the blue-eyed black Lemur – is exclusively found. This species of lemur is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered due to the severe deforestation and forest fragmentation of their natural habitat.
Isabel’s study aimed to encompass a variety of different aspects of the species’ social behaviour, and their habitat usage. The blue-eyed black lemur is a sociable species, with large groups consisting of both males and females. It is still unconfirmed whether the species live in multi-male-multi-female societies (stable groups of both sexes), or whether they exist in fission-fusion societies (groups consisting of larger societies that split into smaller subgroups and later regroup). The study was broken down into two key components – that of the social behaviour of the species, and the home range use of the species. The objectives of the social behaviour component studies were to:
- establish whether Eulemur flavifrons exist in fission-fusion, or multi-male-multi-female societies;
- collect conclusive evidence on the dominance hierarchy that exists in the social groups;
- collect data on the structure and composition of the social groups: the sex ratio, the age ratio, core individuals, etc.
The second part of the project focused around the species’ conservation, looking at the forest available to the lemurs, and observing their spatial requirements and movements within that area. In order to protect the species and ensure that sufficient forest is protected as intact National Park land, it is necessary to establish the ranging patterns of the species. The groups of lemurs were tracked and GPS coordinates of their home ranges collected, to obtain an accurate overview of their land usage. Further data was collected in order to:
- establish whether or not lemurs can cross non-forest matrix;
- measure the extent of the remaining forest fragments within the National Park;
- determine the minimum fragment size required for individuals to meet their resource requirement.