When it comes to the silky sifaka, one of the largest and most distinctive lemurs in Madagascar, the numbers highlight clearer than words ever could just how close to extinction they are.
There are only around 250 silky sifakas left in the world and, of those, only an estimated 50 are fully grown adults capable of reproduction. As such, the sifaka is listed by the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered, with its population marked as decreasing and on the verge of collapse.
The most major cause of the silky sifaka decline is due to human hunting, as there’s currently no legal protection to stop the lemurs being shot and sold to restaurants as a delicacy. Indeed, lemur bush meats are openly and freely traded in markets and shops without issue.
Population density on Madagascar has exploded over the past 50 years and this has led to many new construction projects in an around the silky sifaka terrority. Today, their remaining range is largely protected, however, it’s unlikely they will ever regain their habitat of 100 years ago.
As primarily a tree-swelling species, the vast illegal logging industries of Madagascar have been a key factor in its range decline, with the species now restricted to a small region of humid rainforest. Even protected areas of terrain within national parks are targeted by the loggers and miners.
The decreasing habitat
Today the silky sifaka is restricted to a small range in north-east Madagascar that stretches along a humid forest belt extending from Maroantsetra in the Analanjirofo coastal region through to Andapa Basin and Marojejy Massif. In terms of elevation within this belt, the lemurs are typically located between 700 and 1,875 meters (2,300 and 6,150 feet) above sea level, while the population is largely splintered into small sub groups. Unfortunately this range is but a fraction of what it once was, with 19th century sources stating that silky sifakas once inhabited much of north Madagascar, with the species commonly spotted in much greater areas.