Golden-crowned sifakas are medium-sized lemurs. These animals are named after their discoverer, Ian Tattersall, who first spotted them in 1974. Their coat is moderately long. It is creamy-white with a golden tint, dark black or chocolate-brown on their neck and throat and pale orange on the tops of their legs and forelimbs. Their tail and hindlimbs are white, and the crown is bright orange-gold. The eyes are orange, and the face is black and mostly hairless. Their snout is blunt and rounded, and the broad nose of these animals helps to distinguish them from other sifakas. Golden-crowned sifakas have long, strong legs that enable them to cling and leap between tree trunks and branches.
Golden-crowned sifakas are centered on the town of Daraina in northeast Madagascar. They inhabit dry deciduous, gallery, and semi-evergreen forests.
Golden-crowned sifakas are primarily active during the day, although they also can be active at dawn and dusk during the rainy season. These animals sleep in the taller trees of the forest at night. During the dry season (May-October) they feed and rest higher in the canopy. Golden-crowned sifakas live in groups of around 5-6 individuals, containing a balanced number of adult males and females. Females are dominant within the group, and only one female breeds successfully each season. Males usually roam between the groups during the mating season. Golden-crowned sifakas are territorial and use scent to mark their territories, which are defended by growling, chasing, and ritualistic leaping displays. When stressed, they emit grunting vocalizations as well as repeated "churrs" that escalate into a high-amplitude "whinney." Their ground predator alarm call, sounds like "shē-fäk". The animals also emit mobbing alarm calls in response to birds of prey.
Little is known about the mating system in Golden-crowned sifakas. The breeding season takes place in late January through March. Females give birth to a single baby once every two years. The gestation period lasts around six months. Infants are born with little hair and initially cling to their mother's belly. As they mature, they begin to ride on her back. Infants are weaned at 5 months and become reproductively mature at around 2-3 years of age. Upon reaching sexual maturity, males leave their natal group and transfer to neighboring social groups.
Golden-crowned sifakas face many significant human-caused (anthropogenic) threats. Their habitat has been highly fragmented. By 1985 it was estimated that 34% of the entire eastern rainforest of the island had disappeared, and it is predicted that at this rate of deforestation there will be no eastern rainforest left by 2020. Illegal logging practices, slash-and-burn agriculture (known as tavy), uncontrolled grass fires, gold mining, poaching, and clearing land for agricultural use have all significantly contributed to the significant deforestation and the ongoing decline of suitable habitat for this species. A newly emergent threat facing Golden-crowned sifakas is hunting by the gold miners. Deep mining pits are often dug near or underneath large trees and disturb the extensive root systems and kill the trees in the area. Although Golden-crowned sifakas are protected from hunting, the gold miners have begun to hunt them as a source of bushmeat. As an example, bushmeat hunting by people from nearby Ambilobe city has already extirpated at least one isolated population of this species.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Golden-crowned sifakas is 6,000-10,000individuals. This species’ numbers are decreasing and it is currently classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List.
Golden-crowned sifakas benefit the local ecosystem by consuming various seeds and fruits and thus acting as key seed dispersers. These lemurs are also a prey species for numerous predators of their range.