Meanwhile, Patel and his colleagues have found previously unknown silky sifaka groups living in forests quite a ways from Marojejy Park. That is encouraging, but he said the situation remains highly tenuous, all the more so because of ongoing political uncertainty in Madagascar.

"To sum it up, their population numbers are declining for sure," he said. "Hunting is up. Habitat disturbance is up since 2009. Yet we have found some places where we didn't know there were silkies."

Soon Patel will soon return to Madagascar to keep looking for more.

The species

Silky sifaka – Propithicus candidus

Habitat: Rain forest in northeast Madagascar

Size: Weigh 11 to 13 pounds, adults measure 3 to 31/2 feet long

Status: One of the 25 most-endangered primates in the world, with estimated population not much above 1,000

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