BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore today announced the arrival of two Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli). This marks the return of the endangered lemur species to the zoo, which has not had sifaka since 2021.
Sifaka, which is pronounced “shi-FOCK,” are named after their distinctive alarm call. They have a unique brown and white coloration and are distinguished from other lemurs by the way that they move, maintaining a very upright posture and using their back legs to leap through the treetops.They can easily leap more than 20 feet in a single bound. On the ground, they spring sideways off their back feet to cover distance while holding their forelimbs out for balance.
The Zoo’s new female was previously at the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana and the male was transferred from the Duke Lemur Center.
“We’ve been working on getting sifaka back for almost 2 years,” said Margaret Rose-Innes, General Curator at the Maryland Zoo. “We’re one of only a handful of accredited zoos to house sifaka and expect that we’ll breed this pair once we see how they get along and the male is a little more mature.”
Any breeding recommendation would come from the Sifaka Species Survival Plan (SSP) coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Coquerel’s sifaka are native only to the island of Madagascar off the southeastern coast of Africa. They spend most of their lives in the treetops in two protected areas in the sparse dry, deciduous forests on the northwestern side of the island. As with many species of lemur, Coquerel’s sifaka are endangered. Habitat loss due to deforestation is the leading threat to the species.