Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 31 – The Indri

Indri in Madagascar

Photo: Erik Patel

Also known as the Babakoto, meaning ‘ancestor of man’, the indri are surrounded by taboo. Many Malagasy believe the indri resemble their sacred ancestors, therefore traditionally they refrain from eating them.  This affords these lemurs a certain degree of protection.

Like other lemurs, they evolved from smaller species which came to Madagascar from  mainland Africa 50 million years ago. Diurnal tree-dwellers, related to the sifakas, indri are the largest lemurs in existence.  Able to run up at speeds of up to twenty miles per hour, they also sing to communicate with others of the species.  Colours range from black to shades of brown with white patches. They move across the canopy by taking huge, graceful bounds of up to thirty feet.

They live in small groups and bonds between the individuals run deep.  In-fighting is rarely known.  Indri lemurs pair for life.  After mating,  the gestation period lasts sixty days.  The babies depend on their mother for the first two years and are cared for by both parents. Females reproduce once every two to three years and there is a high infant mortality rate, which exacerbates the population problem; they simply cannot keep up with their declining numbers.

Mainly montane forests and tropical moist lowland
What they eat

Mostly young, tender leaves; and flowers, seeds and bark.

Habitat loss due to extensive rainforest clearance, selective logging, fuel wood and slash-and-burn agriculture.  Although the indri are protected by taboo in many areas, in some parts they are still hunted for their meat and skins.  And, then there is the fossa. The fossa was just made to prey upon lemurs and the indri are no exception.  Snakes and hawks also share a taste for all lemur.
Status: Endangered
The indri (indri indri) is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature on the  IUCN Red List  as Endangered.  The habitat of the indri has been totally ravaged by deforestation therefore endangering the indri itself.  Thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) this is all about to change.

The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Government of Madagascar announced a landmark agreement, where the government will offer for sale more than nine million tons of carbon offsets to help safeguard this African nation’s most pristine forest. Proceeds from sales will protect the wildlife-rich Makira Forest, contribute to the economic well-being of people living around the forest, and help fight global climate change. [1]

“It is our task in our time and in our generation, to hand down undiminished to those who come after us…the natural wealth and beauty which is ours.”
John F. Kennedy