Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur Fact File
The black and white ruffed lemur is as its name suggests colored black and white across its body. In most individuals they have black hands, feet, face and heads. In a semicircle around the bottom of their head is a white ruff of fur. Often animals from the north are darker than those in the south.
Their fur is incredibly thick to provide a defense against the cold in eastern Madagascar.
Black and white ruffed lemurs are one of only two ruffed lemurs, the other being the red ruffed lemur.
On either side of the nose they have catlike whiskers.
They have striking yellow eyes with a round, black pupil.
At the end of their body is a long tail adding between 60 and 65cm ( 24-26in) to the length of their body. This helps with balance when in the trees.
On average black and white ruffed lemurs weigh up to 4.1kg (9lbs). Their body measures between 43 and 57cm (17-22in) long.
Black and white ruffed lemurs are herbivores. Most of their diet consists of fruit but seeds, flowers, leaves and nectar are also consumed. They consume the most fruit of any of the 100 lemur species.
These lemurs are picky eaters and this makes them vulnerable to habitat disturbance.
They are an important pollinator for flowers such as the traveller’s palm as they collect pollen on their muzzle and fur when eating.
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Madagascar, off the coast of Africa is the native home of the black and white ruffed lemur. They are found along the east coast of the island. Three subspecies have been identified in their range.
A population has been introduced to the island of Nosy Mangabe in the Bay of Antongil.
They make their home in tropical moist lowland and mountainous forests.
Mating takes place in early summer with most of the infants being born between September and October.
Twins are most common but litters up to six are possible. These infants and are born after a gestation period of approximately 102 days. Their short gestation means they are not as well developed as other juvenile primates and as such mom must pick them up and move them around.
Initially the young are deposited in a nest. These nests are constructed specifically for giving birth. Ruffed lemurs are the only diurnal (daytime active) primates which give birth in a nest.
By 3 weeks old they are already following their mother and exchanging calls.
Infant mortality is high and only around 1/3 infants make it past three months of age.
Young become independent by four months old and at 20 months old they are sexually mature.
These animals are mostly arboreal with much of their day spent in the trees. They may hang upside down off just their feet to reach food.
Black and white ruffed lemurs form a group which can include between 8 and 16 individuals with a mixture of sexes. Females are the core of the group and they work to defend the territory. One name used for a group of lemurs is a ‘congress.’
They are active by day when they will forage for food.
These lemurs communicate with one another using twelve calls. These include howls, barks and growls.
Much of their time is spent grooming over black and white ruffed lemurs.
Predators and Threats
The main natural predator of the black and white ruffed lemur is the fossa.
Humans present a major threat and numbers of these primates are thought to have declined by as much as 80%.
Black and white ruffed lemurs are among the most heavily hunted lemurs as they are one of the most expensive and desired meats. Habitat loss is also another major threat due to farming, logging and mining.
Another threat is natural disasters such as cyclones.
In 1997 a group of zoos and conservation groups worked to release five black and white ruffed lemurs in to the Betampona Reserve. These were followed by additional lemurs in 1998 and 2001 with six of the released animals going on to breed.
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