The brown lemur group maintains a broad range across diverse habitats. The more widely distributed populations (E. fulvus fulvus, E. f. rufus, and E. f. albifrons) are at present considered to face a lower risk of extinction (IUCN, 2004). In contrast, with more restricted ranges, E. f. sanfordi and E. collaris are vulnerable and E. albo-collaris is considered critically endangered (IUCN, 2004). These populations are threatened primarily by the conversion of suitable habitats into agricultural land (Jolly, 1986; Harcourt and Thornback, 1990), exacerbated in some areas by selective logging and hunting practices (Harcourt and Thornback, 1990; Johnson and Overdorff, 1999). E. albocollaris ranks among the most endangered primate species in Madagascar, indeed the world (Mittermeier et al., 2005), with widespread habitat destruction across its range, locally heavy hunting pressure, very low population densities, and a total population size of approximately 7,000 individuals (Mittermeier et al., 1994; Johnson and Overdorff, 1999; Irwin et al., 2005). E. collaris maintains higher densities (Johnson and Overdorff, 1999; Banks, 2002) and a larger distribution. However, like E. albocollaris, a significant portion of this taxon's range lies in severely threatened littoral forest fragments (Banks, 2002).
Conservation objectives include safeguarding not only taxa and habitats but also underlying evolutionary processes. The dynamics of the Andringitra boundary region may serve important functions in the evolutionary divergence of white-collared and rufous lemurs (Johnson, 2002; Wyner et al., 2002). This hybrid zone is also a potential source for new genetic variation (Wyner et al., 2002). Accordingly, to maintain biodiversity in this group, as well as to better understand lemur speciation processes, it is important to preserve contact zones and the adjoining forest corridors that allow dispersal among brown lemur populations.
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