Ring Tailed Lemur Facts | Arboreal Creatures

The ring tailed lemur (Lemur catta) is a large primate that is unique among lemurs precisely due to its long black-and-white tail. The lemur is a native animal of the island of Madagascar. It is found in the forests and scrubs in the southern range of the island. The ringtail stays active all day and at night it gets to rest.

Ring Tailed Lemur Facts

Physical Characteristics

  • The adult lemur is 15–18 in (39–46 cm) long including tail that measures 22–24 in (56–62 cm) in length.
  • The ring tailed lemur weighs up to 6.5–7.75 lb (3–3.5 kg).
  • They look more like aberrant raccoons especially by their vividly striped tails.
  • The lemur has a soft and dense pelage.
  • It is reddish-brown from the back, while the flanks, limbs, and rump displays gray to gray-brown color, the crown and the back of the neck is dark brown.
  • The head gives a look of a fox with its long muzzle.
  • There are white furs covering its triangular ears.
  • The lemur’s eyes are encircled by a prominent black ring. These eyes are bright red brown to orange.
  • One can easily recognize lemurs simply by looking at their long tails which consists of 13 to 14 black rings.
  • Their forelimbs are shorter than their hindlimbs.

Ringtailed lemur facts

Distribution

The ring tailed lemur lives all throughout the southern Madagascar ranging from Tôlanaro (Fort-Dauphin) on the east coast and as far north as Morandava on the west coast, with an isolated population in Andringita Natioanl Park in south-central Madagascar Andringita Natioanl Park in south-central Madagascar.

Habitat

  • These lemurs make homes in different habitats like scrub forest, closed-canopy gallery (riverside) forest, dry to dense forest, and other indigenous forests.
  • They also feel home in dry-adapted spiny forests which are extensive in the southern Madagascar.
  • An isolated population of ringtails is known to live in treeless, dry, rocky regions in the south-central Madagascar in in Andringitra National Park. The rocky outcrops and vertical cliffs are perfect homes to ringtail lemurs.
  • Unlike other lemurs, ringtails have adapted to living in their unique treeless environment in the wild.

Behavior

  • Unlike other lemurs, lemur catta is the most adaptable animal and the one that spends most of the time on the ground. They also move around in the trees so easily.
  • They make groups of 5 – 25 individuals with an average being 14.
  • The female lemurs dominate adult males as the former are the first ones to pick food and a mating partner. However, a group is never dominated by a single individual.
  • While males wander around among groups females never leave their groups.
  • The foraging range of ringtails is 15–22 acres (6–9 ha) in densely forested regions and up to 57 acres (23 ha) in scrub. Lemur catta territories border on one another without overlap.
  • The ringtials are absolute diurnal species as they sit upright on the ground, rest on their knees, arms held out from the sides, and open their palms. For a moment one could think about that they are worshipping a sun. The lemurs do so in order to keep their body warm in cool mornings.
  • After getting enough heat from the sun, ringtails begin to search for the food and the forage continues till noon. At noon, they take rest either on the ground (under shadow) or on trees because it is the hottest part of the day.
  • They continue foraging until before nightfall after which they climb up the trees and go asleep.
  • Lemurs fight a lot while living in the same group.
  • They have a many different alarm calls. Prominent among these calls is a cat-like meow which is primarily a call for group cohesion. These calls are high-pitched and songlike. When they feel threatened, lemurs produce sort of a barking or yapping for alarm.
  • It’s true that lemurs are arboreal creatures but they do move quite efficiently on the ground as they are on the trees. While walking they raise their tails as if one holds a flag.

ring tailed lemur

Feeding Ecology and Diet

  • The ringtail lemurs primarily feed on fruits, herbs, leaves, flowers, bark, tree sap, and other plants matter. They occasionally eat insects and small vertebrates.
  • These lemurs are extremely fond of seed pods of the tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica).  The only edible parts of the seed are sticky, sweet-tart arils, or coatings.

Reproductive Biology

  • The female attains maturity at the age of three after which they give births annually.
  • The males become mature after two and half years but they must fight with other older dominant males to get a mating partner.
  • The mid-April is the mating season for ringtail lemurs.
  • One female is most likely to mate with one or more males.
  • The young are born in August and September. Depending on the availability of food, the mother gives birth to one or two.
  • When the young is two weeks old it gets on the mother’s back. After two and a half months the young leaves its mother and play with other young. It will stay with mother and a group as long as it is able to search for food.
  • The young are on their own at 5 – 6 months of age.

Conservation Status

Vulnerable. Multiple threats include deforestation and hunting for food and the illegal pet trade.

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