This little primate, as are many others, is losing his battle against organised crime. Adopting a ‘grab it before it all goes’ policy, organised crime is now responsible for up to 90% of tropical deforestation through illegal logging. And, at an estimated $30 to $100 billion per year, you can see the attraction for the less scrupulous members of the planet.
Unchecked, which is what they are at the moment, these crime lords are continuing to rape the planet at the expense of wildlife, the environment and indigenous peoples. Although the United Nations Environment Program released this alarming report in September, 2012, this situation has not changed.
You may wonder why so many lemurs are featured here on this page. The reason being; they are the world’s most endangered primates, with over 91% of species listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable to extinct (twenty-three of those extant are critically endangered). Shocking statistics!
Blue-eyed lemurs are sexually dichromatic; females are orange-brown and males are black. The blue-eyed black lemur, also known as the Sclater’s lemur, ** is considered a true lemur. The blue-eyed black lemur may be the only primate (other than humans) to have blue eyes – an extremely rare occurrence amongst primates. This is also what differentiates them from black lemurs.
Black lemurs have brown eyes and blue-eyed blacks, as the name suggests, have deep blue eyes. Black lemurs are known to breed with blue-eyed black lemurs, where their habitat overlaps, but any offspring resulting from these liaisons will only ever have brown eyes.
A medium-sized blue-eyed black lemur can weigh about five and a half pounds. They can reach an average body length of seventeen to eighteen inches, with a non-prehensile tail length of over twenty-four inches. They have strong, human-like hands, equipped with rubbery textured skin on the palms, to aid gripping of branches.
Practised climbers, they can cover long distances by leaping through the trees using their long non-prehensile tails as a balancing tool. Tails which are often carried high in the air as the animals moves. On the ground, they move in a quadrupedal manner. They manage to escape danger from humans and natural predators by suddenly dropping from the trees, hurtling through scrub to another tree, and hurriedly climbing out of sight.
The species live together in groups of two to fifteen individuals. Leadership falls to the females in the group. Communications between the primates consists of vocalisations, body language, facial expressions and scent marking. Vocalisations are made up of clicking, barking, grunting and chirping, and males have been heard making a loud ‘scree’ noise when threatened. This species has also been noted to be highly aggressive within the group. Fights often break out during the breeding and birthing seasons.
The breeding season occurs from April to June. Females give birth from August to October, following a gestation period of one hundred and twenty-six days. Either twins or a single baby will be born. Neither case is unusual. T he babies will average seventy-five grams in weight. Both sexes are born with the same brown to black colouration (males will begin to turn black five or six weeks after birth).
Juveniles are the first to be allowed near the infants. The father is next in line and finally the other females in the group. Infants cling to their mothers for the first three weeks of their lives. After which they will make short trips out to see what is going on around them, but never straying far from the safety of mother. At the same time they begin to experiment with solids. The infant won’t be weaned, however, until five or six months of age.
** These beautiful lemurs are named after Philip Sclater, who during the 1800s was secretary of the London Zoological Society.
Primary and secondary sub-tropical moist forests and dry forests. They can also be found on citrus, coffee and timber plantations.
What they eat
Mostly fruit, pollen and nectar. They will also eat leaves, seeds, berries and the occasional insect when food is scarce during the dry season.
Habitat loss (more than 80% in 20-25 years) due to ongoing slash-and-burn agriculture, selective logging and uncontrolled forest fires. They are sometimes killed as crop pests. The species is also hunted and trapped for food by the Tsimihety people, a Malagasy ethnic group. Blue-eyed black lemurs are also captured for the illegal fur, meat and pet trade, and zoos. Occasionally, they are kept locally as pets.
Status: Critically Endangered
The blue-eyed black lemur (Eulemur flavifrons) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered. It is also protected under Appendix I of CITES and recognised as one of “The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates”. As few as one thousand individuals are thought to exist in the wild, though precise numbers are not available. In 2012, twenty-nine individuals were recorded as living in zoos.
Crucial work is being carried out by various international agencies and organisations to conserve this species. Captive breeding programmes are in place around the world, as are various in situ projects concerning local awareness. Reforestation projects are also currently active. Although the blue-eyed black lemur and its habitat are protected in parts, poaching and deforestation continue to escalate. These are serious law enforcement issues which needs to be addressed with some vigour.
There is further hope for the future of the blue-eyed black lemur, in the form of the very dedicated Duke Lemur Center, Duke University, located in Durham, North Carolina, USA. To see some of their incredible work, click on the ink.
“When I hear of the destruction of a species, I feel just as if all the works of some great writer have perished”