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 Verreaux's Sifaka (1996)

Acrylic on illustration board
14" x 20"
 The fantastic island of Madagascar, having been isolated since the Cretaceous, is famous for its unique flora and fauna. The 32 species of primate living there are usually referred to collectively as "lemurs", though they are not all closely related. The elegant Verreaux's sifaka (pronounced sh'fock) is one of the most beautiful of the lot. Found mostly in dry forests in the west and southern part of the island, it is strictly herbivorous, eating leaves and fruits when they are available. Like its relatives, the indri and the avahis, the diurnal sifaka is most comfortable when clinging to a vertical tree trunk. From this position it can leap powerfully from tree to tree. When moving about on the ground, it does so bouncing bipedally like a kangaroo. Its ability to leap about the trunks of plants of the family Didiereaceae, which are covered with large strong spines, without injury is a feat that continues to perplex observers. The landscape in the painting is purely invented but is meant to simulate the southwestern edge of Madagascar's central plateau. The incidental creatures are: Oustalet's chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti), Madagascan day gecko (Phelsuma madagascariensis), Madagascan kestrel (Falco newtoni), Namaqua dove (Oena capensis), and ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta).