The blue-eyed black lemur is a medium-sized member of the Lemuridae family. The subspecies, the taxonomic validity of which was recently confirmed by Rabarivola , was rediscovered by science only in 1983 after more than a century of uncertainty about its existence [Koenders et al., 1985], and is therefore one of the least-studied of all lemur taxa. It is found in primary and secondary sub-humid forests and on coffee and citrus plantations of northwest Madagascar, in a very small area of about 2700km². There is only a small total population remaining of E. flavifrons, the largest part of it living in forest fragments on and adjacent to the Sahamalaza peninsula [Mouton, 1999; Schwitzer et al., 2006].
The genetic diversity of the remaining populations in the Sahamalaza forests is still similar to that observed in the black lemur (E. macaco), the closest relative of the blue-eyed black lemur, in the reserve of Lokobe in Nosy-be [Rabarivola, 1998; Fausser et al., 2000]. It is not known how many blue-eyed black lemurs are left in the wild. The most recent estimate of the population size inside the Sahamalaza National Park is 2,780-6,950 individuals [Schwitzer et al., 2005]. The subspecies is threatened by hunting, trapping and forest destruction, and is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN [Mittermeier et al., 1994; Rakotondratsima, 1999]. As at January 2012, there were 29 blue-eyed black lemurs living in European zoos. The European captive population of the subspecies is being managed in an EEP coordinated by Mulhouse Zoo.
Blue-eyed black lemurs seem to live in groups of a mean 5.5 individuals, ranging from 2 to 13 [Rakotondratsima, 1999; see also Garbutt, 1999]. In their study of captive groups of blue-eyed black lemurs at the Duke University Primate Center, Digby & Kahlenberg [1999, 2002] found that females were dominant over males, which is unusual among mammals but has been described for a number of lemur species [e.g., Colquhoun, 1997, for E.m. macaco; Kaufman, 1991, for Varecia].
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