The Pisa Group / Drs. Elisabetta Palagi, Ivan Norscia, and Daniela Antonacci
Elisabetta Palagi has been studying primates (monkeys and apes) since 1992 and lemurs, in particular, since 1996. She started by performing captive studies on the olfactory behavior of Lemur catta, finding out that urine is used by strepsirrhines for scent-marking. Later on she demonstrated individual recognition by Lemur catta and moved to more sophisticated analyses on multimodal signaling in the same species, and to sociobiology, involving post-conflict and play behavior.
Ivan Norscia has been studying wild lemurs since 2001, in different dry and wet forests of Madagascar. He began with an investigation of the feeding and ranging behavior of Propithecus verreauxi and then moved to nocturnal strepsirrhines, concentrating on feeding, ranging patterns and demography for conservation purposes. His doctoral research has contributed to the recognition of a new lemur species, Avahi meridionalis (Zaramody et al., 2006).
The Pisa Group/ Berenty Research
Our research spans conservation, and behavioral ecology and sociobiology, and addresses the following issues:
- Demography of Propithecus verreauxi in the Berenty Reserve and Estate, including the secondary forest of Ankoba, and the different forest areas of Malaza (and outside): transitional forest, gallery forest, degraded/bushy, and spiny forest.
- Feeding ecology of Propithecus verreauxi in the secondary forest of Ankoba, to determine how this frugi-folivorous species can flexibly adjust its diet in a forest built by exotic tree species.
- Play behavior in Lemur catta and Propithecus verreauxi, to shed light the role and functions of play in strepsirhines.
- Post-conflict management in Lemur catta, Propithecus verreauxi, Eulemur fulvus x collaris to understand which mechanisms are adopted by social group to avoid dispersion and disruption.
- Hierarchical relationships and despotism levels in Lemur catta, Propithecus verreauxi and Eulemur fulvus x collaris to quantitatively assess the dominance style of the different species, beyond female dominance and hierarchy linearity.
- Behavioral indicators of stress (scratching, yawning, self-grooming) in Lemur catta, Propithecus verreauxi, Eulemur fulvus x collaris, to understand how lemurs cope with anxiety.
- Communication based on multimodal signals on Propithecus verreauxi and Lemur catta. Visual and olfactory components are often combined to deliver multifaceted messages, more complex than expected.
- Decision making in Lemur catta and Propithecus verreauxi, to assess how lemurs make choices in the wild (to be coupled with trials in captivity).
- Mating and grooming behavior in Lemur catta and Propithecus verreauxi, to investigate if, how, and when lemurs exchange or interchange services in biological markets.
RESEARCH SPONSORS, CONSERVATION AND COOPERATION
Our missions to Berenty have been funded by three Italian Zoo-Parks:
- Giardino Zoologico di Pistoia: http://www.zoodipistoia.it/index_eng.php
- Parco Zoo Punta Verde: http://www.parcozoopuntaverde.it
- Parco Zoo di Falconara: http://www.parcozoofalconara.com/web/eng/index.html
Such parks are particularly involved with conservation and with the study of lemurs in situ as a means to better preserve them ex situ.
Children at the Berenty Village School © photo by Daniela Antonacci
Our sponsors also provide funds to support the local schools at the Berenty village with material, books, and via small projects of environmental education performed by involving local teachers. tourism and research pivoting around Malagasy ecosystems can produce an income for people. Thus, it is important to increase the local awareness on the unique flora and fauna of Madagascar, via information conveyed to students by Malagasy teachers, supported by small projects. This process can help future generations to perceive the importance of the environment where they live, to know it more deeply, and to preserve it as a an invaluable richness.
Book Prepared by Berenty School Children for Italian Children © photo by Ivan Norscia