Claire Cardinal

Thesis title: Lemur-human coexistence: the impact of human activities on the behaviour and demography of cathemeral lemurs in south-eastern Madagascar

Start year: 2017


Supervisor(s): Professor Giuseppe Donati, Professor Catherine Hill

Research topic

To conserve endangered species it is crucial that we understand how animals perceive and tolerate people, and the impact of human activities upon their behaviour, populations, and ecology. Hunting by humans is recognised as one of the main threats to lemur survival in Madagascar, but the drivers of hunting and its impact on lemur demography and behaviour have received little scientifc attention.

My research investigates the extent and nature of lemur hunting by people living in rural communities and explores the impact of hunting on lemurid demography and behaviour. My research site is Tsitongambarika Protected Area in south-eastern Madagascar. Using the regionally most hunted lemur species – collared brown lemur Eulemur collaris (Endangered) and southern bamboo lemur Hapalemur meridionalis (Vulnerable) as a model, I will:

  • Investigate the drivers and importance of lemur hunting to people living close to tropical forests in south-eastern Madagascar, within the context of their relationships with the forest and forest animals;
  • Determine how hunting by humans affects the abundance, distribution, group size and group composition of lemurs;
  • Identify the behavioural responses exhibited by lemurs towards humans and explore whether lemurs demonstrate behavioural adaptations in areas of high hunting pressure;
  • Model the behavioural and/or demographic characteristics of lemurs that can be used as indirect predictors for hunting pressure.

I will combine ethnoprimatological and ecological research methods to study lemur hunting from the dual perspectives of lemurs and people sharing the same forest. To understand the drivers and importance of lemur hunting in rural communties, I will conduct interviews and participant observations with people living in villages close to the forest and independent snare surveys. I will survey the abundance and demography of Eulemur collaris and Hapaelmur meridionalis, and carry out behavioural studies to investigate the responses of lemurs to human presence. These variables will be used to model behavioural responses in relation to hunting, demographic, habitat and geographic parameters to identify whether lemurs exhibit behavioural adaptions in areas of high hunting pressure.

My results will contribute to the growing field of ethnoprimatology by elucidating the economic, social and cultural role of lemur hunting for rural communities. They will further understanding of cathemeral lemurs’ capability to adapt to habitat change and survive in anthropogenic habitats. My research will provide tools that can be used to monitor threats and predict pressures from hunting on lemur populations, and evidence-based strategies to reduce hunting pressures that balance human needs and conservation priorities.


Lemur conservation, primate behaviour, ethnoprimatology, hunting, Eulemur, Hapalemur

General research interests

Primate behaviour, human-wildlife interactions, wildlife conservation, conservation and zoo education, animal husbandry and welfare

Academic school / department

School of Law and Social Sciences


Work in progress

  • Article in prep. Cardinal, C. and Nekaris, K.A.I. Integrating science and puppetry to inspire teenagers in rural Asia to value their native wildlife.


Conference papers

  • Cardinal, C. (2017) Japan Monkey Center. In Fuentes, A. (ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Primatology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Cardinal, C. (2017) Primate Research Centers – Japan. In Fuentes, A. (ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Primatology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Cardinal, C. (2017) Communicating conservation: using acoustics and education to develop understanding of endangered slow lorises Nycticebus pygmaeus and Nycticebus javanicus and gibbons Nomascus gabriellae and Hylobates moloch in Viet Nam and Java. Primate Eye, 121, pp.31-34.
  • Cardinal, C. and Nekaris, K.A.I. (2016) Integrating science and puppetry to inspire young people to value threatened wildlife. Poster presentation. Primate Society of Great Britain (PSGB) winter meeting, Durham University, UK.
  • Poindexter, S. and Cardinal, C. (2016) Saving the slow loris through research and education in south-east Asia. Oral presentation to Berkshire Mammal Group, Reading, UK.
  • Cardinal, C. (2016) Whoop Troop: Creating a conservation education resource that integrates science and puppetry to inspire young people to value threatened wildlife. Oral presentation Student Conference, Oxford Brookes University, UK.
  • Cardinal, C. (2016) Communicating Conservation: Saving endangered primates using research and education. Oral presentation to scientists and conservationists at Nam Cat Tien, Viet Nam.

Further details

Academic and professional training

  • MSc Primate Conservation, Oxford Brookes University (2016)
  • Dissertation “Creating a conservation education resource that integrates science and puppetry to inspire young people to value threatened wildlife.” Supervised by Professor K. Anna I. Nekaris
  • HND Animal Management, Northumberland College (2015)
  • Dissertation “What can European zoos do to help save the cotton top tamarin?” Supervised by Alastair Parkin
  • Level 4 Leadership, Newcastle College (2013)
  • Prince2 Project Management Registered Practitioner (since June 2007)
  • BA (Hons) Town & Country Planning, University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1989)

Scholarships and prizes

  • Global Wildlife Conservation’s Lemur Conservation Action Fund and IUCN’s Save our Species (SOS) – Conservation Grant (2018)
  • Primate Society of Great Britain - Conservation Grant (2016)

Other experience and professional activities

Research experience

  • Tsitongambarika Protected Area, Anosy region, Madagascar (2017): Pilot study for my PhD research. I trialled ecological survey techniques, explored trails used by people to access forest resources and conducted preliminary discussions with key informants.
  • Dao Tien Endangered Primate Rescue Centre, Viet Nam (2016): Acoustic study to investigate ultrasonic communication by pygmy slow lorises Nycticebus pygmaeus, tracking and monitoring the behaviour of released slow lorises and husbandry of rehabilitant slow lorises

Employment history

  • Shelving Assistant, Oxford Brookes University Library (2016 to date)
  • Zoo Presenter, Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens (2013-2015)
  • Economic Regeneration Project Manager, South Tyneside Council (2004-2013)
  • Urban Regeneration Officer, City of Sunderland Council (2001 – 2004)
  • Town Planner, Alnwick District Council (1989 – 2001)
  • Temporary trainee Planner, Carlisle City Council (1987 – 1988)


  • Primate section, Cotswolds Wildlife Park (2015 -2017)
  • Zookeeper, Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens (2013)
  • Esperanza Verde wildlife rescue and forest protection project, Ucayali Peru (2013)


  • English (native speaker)
  • French (intermediate)
  • Spanish (intermediate)
  • Malagasy (basic)