Population Viability and Harvest Sustainability for Madagascar Lemurs

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Subsistence hunting presents a conservation challenge by which biodiversity preservation must be balanced with safeguarding of human livelihoods. Globally, subsistence hunting threatens primate populations, including Madagascar's endemic lemurs. We used population viability analysis to assess the sustainability of lemur hunting in Makira Natural Park, Madagascar. We identified trends in seasonal hunting of 11 Makira lemur species from household interview data, estimated local lemur densities in populations adjacent to focal villages via transect surveys, and quantified extinction vulnerability for these populations based on species-specific demographic parameters and empirically derived hunting rates. We compared stage-based Lefkovitch with periodic Leslie matrices to evaluate the impact of regional dispersal on persistence trajectories and explored the consequences of perturbations to the timing of peak hunting relative to the lemur birth pulse, under assumptions of density-dependent reproductive compensation. Lemur hunting peaked during the fruit-abundant wet season (March–June). Estimated local lemur densities were roughly inverse to body size across our study area. Life-history modeling indicated that hunting most severely threatened the species with the largest bodies (i.e., Hapalemur occidentalis, Avahi laniger, Daubentonia madagascariensis, and Indri indi), characterized by late-age reproductive onsets and long interbirth intervals. In model simulations, lemur dispersal within a regional metapopulation buffered extinction threats when a majority of local sites supported growth rates above the replacement level but drove regional extirpations when most local sites were overharvested. Hunt simulations were most detrimental when timed to overlap lemur births (a reality for D. madagascariensis and I. indri). In sum, Makira lemurs were overharvested. Regional extirpations, which may contribute to broad-scale extinctions, will be likely if current hunting rates persist. Cessation of anthropogenic lemur harvest is a conservation priority, and development programs are needed to help communities switch from wildlife consumption to domestic protein alternatives.


10.1111/cobi.13151Final published version Open

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