Assessment of organochlorine pesticides and metals in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at Beza Mahafaly special reserve, Madagascar

Thomas R. Rainwater, Michelle L. Sauther, Katherine A.E. Rainwater, Rachel E. Mills, Frank P. Cuozzo, Zhang Baohong, Les N. McDaniel, Michael T. Abel, Eric J. Marsland, Martha A. Weber, Ibrahim Antho Youssouf Jacky, Steven G. Platt, George P. Cobb, Todd A. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Like most of Madagascar's endemic primates, ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) face a number of threats to their survival. Although habitat loss is of greatest concern, other anthropogenic factors including environmental contamination may also affect lemur health and survival. In this study, we examined ring-tailed lemurs from the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve (BMSR), southern Madagascar for exposure to organochlorine (OC) pesticides and metals and examined differences in contaminant concentrations between sexes and among age groups, troops, and habitats. A total of 14 pesticides and 13 metals was detected in lemur blood (24 individuals) and hair (65 individuals) samples, respectively. p,p'-DDT, heptachlor, aldrin, heptachlor epoxide, endrin aldehyde, and endrin were among the most prevalent pesticides detected. Surprisingly, the persistent metabolite of p,'-DDT, p,'-DDE, was not detected. The most commonly detected metals were aluminum, zinc, boron, phosphorus, silicon, and copper, whereas metals considered more hazardous to wildlife (e.g. arsenic, cadmium, lead, selenium, vanadium) were not found above detection limits. Overall, concentrations of OC pesticides and metals were low and similar to those considered to be background concentrations in other studies examining the ecotoxicology of wild mammals. Few inter-sex, -age, -troop, and -habitat differences in contaminant concentrations were observed, suggesting a uniform distribution of contaminants within the reserve. Several statistically significant relationships between lemur body size and contaminant concentrations were observed, but owing to the lack of supportive data regarding contaminant exposure in wild primates, the biological significance of these findings remains uncertain. Results of this study document exposure of ring-tailed lemurs at BMSR to multiple OC pesticides and metals and provide essential baseline data for future health and toxicological evaluations of lemurs and other wild primates, especially those in regions with expanding agricultural and mining operations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)998-1010
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Anthropogenic effects
  • Conservation
  • Metals
  • Organochlorine pesticides
  • Pollution
  • Primate
  • Toxicology


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessment of organochlorine pesticides and metals in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at Beza Mahafaly special reserve, Madagascar'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this