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Animal Fact Sheets

 

 

 

RING-TAILED LEMUR

(Lemur catta)
 

Introduction

Classification and Range

Ring-tailed lemurs belong to a group of primates called prosimians, which also includes tarsiers, lorises and galagos. Ring-tailed lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, found nowhere else in the wild. Prosimians are the only primates found in Madagascar.

Habitat

Ring-tailed lemur habitat can vary, from thinly wooded regions to treeless, dry rocky country.

Physical Characteristics

The ring-tailed lemur is about 20 inches long with another 20 inches of tail. They have soft fur which is brown on the back, light gray on the rump and limbs, and white on the underparts, forehead, cheeks and ears. They have dark rings around their eyes. The tail has alternating rings of black and white, ending in a black tip, and is carried in an upright S-curve.

Life Expectancy

16-19 years in the wild, can be longer in zoo settings.

Diet

Ring-tailed lemurs forage for fruit, which makes up the greater part of their diet, but also eat leaves, flowers, tree bark and sap.

At the zoo: leaf eater and banana biscuits, apples, yams, carrots, bananas and rotational fruits such as papaya, mango, corn on the cob and grapes.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The young are born in the fall. Usually, there is only one offspring, although two are not uncommon. Babies normally ride on their mother’s belly. Ring-tailed lemurs exhibit aunting behavior, with females other than the mother caring for the young. By one year of age, offspring are completely independent of the mother and can survive on their own.

Troop Life

Ring-tailed lemurs maintain multiple male-female groups of 10-24 individuals. The females form the core of the group, and the males often migrate from one group to another. There is a very well established hierarchy within each gender and females are always dominant to males. Within the group, there is a great deal of interaction between group members. Ring-tailed lemurs spend much of their time playing together and grooming one another.

Talk to Me

Ring-tailed lemurs make a variety of vocalizations. Clicks are emitted by group members as the troop begins to move and are often followed by moans, wails and meows. A soft mewing sound is made to regain contact after the group has been surprised and scattered, a barking call and a shrill sound signify alarm, and a purring sound can be heard when they are content.

Conservation Connection

Ring-tailed lemurs are endemic to Madagascar; they appear nowhere else in the wild outside of the island country. These endangered forest dwellers are facing a tough reality in the wild—their forests are disappearing and with them the rich biodiversity of Madagascar, much of which exists nowhere else on the planet.

Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation work takes us to Madagascar for another pocket of biodiversity in trouble—endemic frogs. Working with the Amphibians of Andasibe—a Wildlife Survival Fund project—we are helping locals develop breeding programs for critically endangered endemic frog species. Their field work, tracking and monitoring frog populations in the wild, is putting eyes in the forests, which is proving essential to protecting more than just the frogs of Madagascar.

Recent patrols to frog breeding sites revealed habitat destruction and signs of illegal logging at one site with nearly 200 trees felled, which local staff was able to report to Ministry authorities in the capital. Increasing awareness of the issues and turning locals into advocates mean there is hope for Madagascar’s unique wildlife.

Every visit to Woodland Park Zoo makes this conservation work possible.

Location at the Zoo

The Ring Tailed Lemurs can be found in the outdoor loop of the Tropical Rain Forest.

 

Fascinating Facts

  • Conflict among ring-tailed lemurs may lead to stink fights: they rub their tails along scent glands on their wrists or under their arms and then hold their tails over their heads, pointing them at the opponent and waving them at each other.

  • Ring-tailed lemurs are the only primate in Madagascar that make extensive use of the forest floor, although they feed at all vertical levels of the forests, from the ground to the upper canopy.

  • Ring-tailed lemurs delight in sunbathing, striking a yoga-like pose with limbs outstretched.



Taxonomy

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Lemuridae

Genus: Lemur

Species: catta