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Ring-Tailed Lemur

Scientific Name: Lemur catta

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Lemurs are found only on the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa. They are different to other primates due to their dog-like muzzle and wet nose. Ring-tailed lemurs get their name from their bushy black and white stripy tail. Most of their fur is grey with a white front and face and black eye patches.

Ring-tailed lemurs form large multi-male, multi-female groups of 12 to 25 individuals. The females are dominant and will protect their territory from other groups by staring down female competition. These lemurs are very social and can often be seen sunbathing in a characteristic pose, sitting upright with arms spread wide. They are the most terrestrial of the lemurs spending a third of their time on the ground.

During the breeding season (April to May), males compete over access to the females using smell. They infuse their tails with scent from the glands in their wrists, then wave them at each other. These stink competitions decide who will get to mate the most. All females in the group give birth around the same time in August and September. This is carefully timed so that infants are weaned around the time fruit becomes plentiful (February to March).

Ring-tailed lemurs will eat most kinds of plant material including fruit, flowers, leaves, seeds, bark, sap and nectar. They eat over 30 different kind of plants but show a preference for Kily trees.

The main threat facing ring-tailed lemurs is habitat loss due to slash-and-burn techniques or logging. Large areas are often burnt for charcoal production or to clear for grazing of livestock. Hunting for the pet trade is also an issue.


Key Facts:

  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Distribution: Madagascar
  • Habitat: Tropical Forest
  • Diet: Flowers, Fruit, Insects, Leaves
  • Height: 35 – 45cm
  • Weight: 2 – 4.5kg
  • Gestation: 134 – 138 days
  • No. of young: 1 – 2
  • Life Span: 20 years