With a 'shi-fak' call echoing throughout the forests of Madagascar, it's little wonder the local people named this group of lemurs the sifaka. Like all lemurs they are only found on the African island of Madagascar, where they evolved away from competition with monkeys. All nine species of sifaka are threatened, mainly from the destruction of their delicate habitat. Some of these amazing sifakas can be explored further using the image links below, where you'll find classic video clips from Sir David Attenborough's 1961 Zoo Quest series through to their incredible 'dancing' technique as filmed for Life of Mammals.
Scientific name: Propithecus
The Sifakas can be found in a number of locations including: Madagascar. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.
The following habitats are found across the Sifakas distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Sifakas (singular "sifaka"; i/ʃɪˈfɑːk/; Malagasy pronunciation: [ˈsifakə̥] ( listen)) are a genus (Propithecus) of lemur from the family Indriidae within the order Primates. Their name of the family is an onomatopoeia of their characteristic "shi-fak" alarm call. Like all lemurs, they are found only on the island of Madagascar. All species of sifakas are threatened, ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered.
Sifakas are medium sized indrids with a head and body length of 40 to 55 centimetres (16 to 22 in) and a weight of 3 to 6 kilograms (6.6 to 13 lb). Their tail is just as long as their body, which differentiates them from the Indri. Their fur is long and silky, with coloration varying by species from yellowish-white to black brown. The round, hairless face is always black. As with all lemurs, the sifaka has special adaptations for grooming, including a toilet-claw on its second toe and a toothcomb.
Sifakas move by vertical clinging and leaping, meaning they maintain an upright position leaping from tree trunk to tree trunk and moving along branches. They are skillful climbers and powerful jumpers, able to make leaps of up to 10 m from one tree to the next. On the ground they move like all indrids with bipedal sideways hopping movements of the hind legs, holding their forelimbs up for balance. Sifakas are diurnal and arboreal.
Sifakas are herbivores, eating leaves, flowers and fruits. When not searching for food they spend a good part of the day sun bathing, stretched on the branches. Sifakas live in larger groups than the other indrids (up to 13 animals). They have a firm territory, which they mark with scent glands. Edges of different sifaka territories can overlap. Even though they defend their territory from invasion by others of their species, they may peacefully co-exist with other lemur species such as Red-bellied Lemur and the Common Brown Lemur. Successful invasions are known to result in death of male members, group takeover and infanticide.
A four to five month gestation period ends with the birth of a single offspring in July. The young holds fast to the mother's belly when small, but then later is carried on her back. Young are weaned after about six months and reach full maturity at the age of two to three years. The life expectancy of the sifakas is up to 18 years.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.