The golden-crowned sifaka is a medium-sized lemur characterized by mostly white fur, prominent furry ears, and a golden-orange crown. It has a coat of moderately long, creamy-white fur with a golden tint, dark black or chocolate-brown fur on its neck and throat, pale orange fur on the tops of its legs and forelimbs, a white tail and hindlimbs. It is one of the smallest sifakas, weighing around 3.5 kg and measuring approximately 90 cm from head to tail. Like all sifakas, it is a vertical clinger and leaper, and its diet includes mostly seeds and leaves.
The small range and fragmented populations of this species weigh heavily on its survival. Forest fragmentation, habitat destruction, poaching, slash-and-burn agriculture, and other human factors threaten its existence. The isolated patches of forest which remain are under pressure from slash-and-burn agriculture (tavy) and logging.
While this sifaka's dry forest habitat was previously under threat from the logging industry and bush fires, the recent discovery of gold in the region has resulted in further swathes of forest disappearing to make way for the miners, who also hunt lemurs for food. The golden-crowned sifaka is listed by the IUCN Red List as Endangered.
The logical reason to save the golden-crowned sifaka is because it is one of the 25 most endangered primate species in the world. But there are other reasons as well. Madagascar will not develop without changes in culture, mentality and the way natural resources are conserved and exploited. By saving the sifaka we will have achieved a process that allows a community to manage their natural resources, feed themselves and conserve valuable species.
These sifakas live in groups of around five to six individuals, usually with two or more adults from each sex. Typically only one female will breed each year. Mating occurs towards the end of January and females give birth to one offspring a year, in late June.
The diet of the golden-crowned sifaka consists of a wide variety of plants - as many as 80 species whose availability varies based on the season. It is a seed predator, making seeds a year-round staple in its diet when available. The golden-crowned sifaka also eats unripe fruits, flowers, and leaves.
The golden-crowned sifaka is a seasonal breeder, often mating during the last week of January. Its gestation period is a little less than six months, and its lactation period is five months. Weaning occurs during the middle of the wet season, in December, when an abundance of immature leaves is available.