Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

The human factor in mouse lemur (Microcebus griseorufus) conservation: Local resource utilization and habitat disturbance at Beza Mahafaly, SW Madagascar

Emilienne Rasoazanabary, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Gray-brown mouse lemurs (Microcebus griseorufus) are able to survive in the most stressful environments of Madagascar. Between 2003 and 2007, I collected data on threats to the survival of M. griseorufus at Beza Mahafaly and how various factors impact their behavior. Individuals can survive ∼5 years, but few do. Females give birth to multiple young in single litters; furthermore, polyestry exists at Beza. Population turnover rates are higher than they are for other mouse lemurs, which also live longer. The morphology and behavior of M. griseorufus in three populations (protected gallery and spiny forests; unprotected forest at Ihazoara) at Beza are influenced by differences in vegetation. Gallery-forest mouse lemurs have hook-like hands and feet while those in the spiny forest have more “clamp-like” cheiridia. Differences in feeding and nesting behavior may explain these differences, as mouse lemurs in the different habitats use small branches in high canopy vs. larger supports close to the ground to different degrees. Morphology and behavior also vary by sex. Reverse sexual canine dimorphism is strong in M. griseorufus at all three forests. The greater canine height of females likely relates to female dominance. Females have greater access to exudate-producing trees and to tree-holes for nesting. They undergo seasonal torpor more frequently than males, and this may give them a survival advantage. Mouse lemurs are not hunted for food but their habitats are disturbed. In the most highly-disturbed (unprotected) forest, I recorded the highest population turnover rate and shortest maximum lifespan. Ihazoara mouse lemurs here cannot fatten or hibernate. But even in “protected” forests where they do hibernate, mouse lemurs suffer from the felling of trees and herding of cattle. The Mahafaly people are cattle herders and faithful to their culture. The externally-imposed prohibition against resource extraction in protected forests engenders local hostility toward conservation. Education has minimally affected these attitudes. Building a more healthy relationship between conservationists and local people is of paramount importance; the views of local people must be considered and more of an effort made to involve local communities in constructing effective conservation strategies.

Subject Area

Wildlife Conservation|Cultural anthropology|Behavioral Sciences

Recommended Citation

Rasoazanabary, Emilienne, "The human factor in mouse lemur (Microcebus griseorufus) conservation: Local resource utilization and habitat disturbance at Beza Mahafaly, SW Madagascar" (2011). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3445177.