“The Animals of the planet are in desperate peril. Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen”
Following the long-term rape and pillage of its forests, Madagascar’s unique biodiversity is suffering greatly. Extreme poverty, internal unrest and the illegal activities of insatiable global businesses have all contributed. And, it is the innocent animals like the red-ruffed lemur who are left to struggle on, potentially homeless and without an adequate supply of food.
Habitat loss is a major threat to these primates, particularly as they are so dependent on large fruit trees in old-growth forests.
Considered to be the most beautiful of all lemurs, the red-ruffed lemur, as its name suggests, sports a long, soft, thick, rusty-red coat. It has a black face and a patch of white fur at the back of its head. Its hands, feet, underside and tail are also black.
It is one of the largest of all Malagasy primates, weighing in at up to eight pounds, with an average body length of twenty-four inches. At twenty inches, the tail is almost the same length. The species is equipped with a specialised claw on the second toe of the hind foot which, along with the lower-front teeth, is used for grooming the long, soft fur.
Red-ruffed lemurs have a whole range of sounds. They bark to ‘chatter’ with each other and have special alarm calls to warn others of approaching predators. In all, they have twelve different calls. Most of which can be heard for miles. They also communicate through scent.
Red-ruffed lemurs are polygamous. They live in small, matriarchal groups of anything between two and six animals. They breed annually between May and July. There is a gestation period of up to one hundred and three days. After which, the female will give birth to an average of three offspring. At birth, infants are not able to cling to the mother. When the mother moves, she picks the infants up individually in her mouth. Babies are weaned at four months. Within this period, mothers ‘park’ their babies in core areas, allowing them to go into the forest. Other members of the group will care for the babies during this time, giving the mother a much-needed break. The father will also help out. Red-ruffed lemurs reach maturity at the age of two
Tall primary forests.
Masoala Peninsula in north-eastern Madagascar.
What they eat
Largely frugivorous, but will also eat leaves, seeds, grains and nuts, nectar and flowers. When feeding on the nectar of flowers, red-ruffed lemurs play a vital role in the pollination of hardwood trees.
Human encroachment, deforestation, hunting for meat and live capture for the international pet trade. Natural predators are the fossa, snakes and eagles.
The Red-ruffed lemur (Varecia rubra) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered. It is also protected under Cites Appendix 1. It is protected officially only within the Masoala National Park and the Makira Protected Area. The wild population of the red-ruffed lemur is estimated to be between thirty and fifty thousand. The captive worldwide population of red-ruffed lemurs stands at almost six hundred animals. Captive populations can be found in the United States and Europe.