The lemurs of Madagascar

Lemur Catta, Maki mococo of Madagascar

One species representing the exceptional biodiversity of Madagascar is indeed its lemurs. They are endemic to the big island and the only representations outside are in the zoos or in Comoros and Mayotte where they were introduced by humans. Originally it was long thought that this primate came from Africa and would have been the ancestor of the ape before the separation of Madagascar from the African continent 88 million years ago, but recent research has revealed in the center of Pakistan a fossil closely related to the modern lemur of Madagascar. Research does not yet say whether this primate has migrated from Madagascar to Asia or the opposite. To be continued…
All species of lemurs are in danger of extinction by the destruction of their habitat, the rainforest. According to the experts, no less than 90% of the original vegetation on the island has been destroyed, and what remains is very severely divided. Lemurs are the most endangered mammals in the world.

Lemur coronatus, crowned lemur of Madagascar

Lemur Catta, also called "Maki" or "Maki Mococo" (ring-tailed lemur in english) is represented by its ringed tail of 14 black and white rings. This endemic lemur confronts the other males with blows of pestilential odors released by its glands. The one who gives off the most nauseating odors gains the favors of the female! Catta lemurs are placed on the IUCN red list because the destruction of their natural habitat tends to make them disappear from their last refuges. These are the most popular lemurs in the zoos of the world, they reproduce themselves easily.

The crowned lemur or "lemur coronatus" has a contrasting color with a kind of crown on top of its head. The males have brown to orange fur and a whitish facial fur. Their crown is a black fur patch between the two ears. They live in groups of about six members. Within a group, communication is done by various vocalizations or sounds, as well as through mutual toilets, fur cleaning. They are diurnal and live mainly in the northern Madagascar, in Diego Suarez and in the Ankarana massif. They are considered vulnerable due to poaching, bush fires, agriculture, and logging.

Lemur fulvus, tawny lemur of Madagascar

The tawny lemur or "lemur fulvus" lives in a group composed of four to a dozen individuals. It feeds on fruits, leaves and flowers. It is active night and day. His social life is very structured and comparable to ours in many ways. It buries its dead (or at least covers it with ground or leaves) and it is also the only primate that has human hands with fingerprints. His two large golden eyes, his elongated greyhound, a very soft coat, varying from beige to red, his waist (about 20 inches plus a tail of 25 inches), his sociability make him an animal he Is tempting to tame. It weighs two to three kilograms, without any natural aggressiveness, hence its vulnerability.

Sifaka of Madagascar

The propithecus verreauxi, known as "sifaka", because of his danger-warning cry, which they usually repeat several times and resemble "shi-fak". However, this appellation is valid especially for the smaller species. The larger ones are also called "simpona". In the more northern regions of Madagascar, two species also have a different name. The rare propithecus of Perrier (Perperi) is called "ankoba joby" or "radjako", and the propithecus Tattersall is named "ankomba malandy". The females give birth to one baby each year, which they carry for nearly six months on their belly, then on their back.

Indri Indri, Babakoto of Madagascar

The Indri Indri or "Babakoto" means "son of the father" in Malagasy for he would have the same ancestors as the Man. It is the largest lemur in wet forests on the East Coast. Different groups typically show up at the beginning of the day with long and extremely powerful cries that can be heard for miles around, resembling siren shots and giving information about the territory, as well as the age, Sex and the reproductive capacity of its author. Its coat is black and white and its diet consists of 32 different species of leaves, making its breeding in captivity impossible.

The lemur Vari or "mane-lemur" or in Malagasy "varika" lives in nests unlike other species. It is the second largest lemur after the Indri Indri and lives in the eastern forests of Masoala up to Sainte-Marie island and Manakara. It has a beautiful coat, soft and thicker than other species.

The Lepilemur is nocturnal and one of the smallest lemurs with the microceb. Rather solitary, his weight in adulthood is less than one kilo. Its round head, large eyes and small ears make it a strange animal and quite difficult to observe except the night when its eyes reflect light, which makes it more vulnerable.

Text and photos Pierre-Yves Babelon
Thanks to The Nahampoana reserve,
The Berenty reserve, Le Palmarium

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