The Many Looks of Lemurs: Endemic to Madagascar, but Favorites in Zoos Worldwide
Lemurs are a type of arboreal primate called a prosimian, and you may never get a chance to see one out in the wild - unless you plan to visit the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa, where they are endemic.
Luckily, however, you might just get to see one or more in captivity in larger zoos across the world. Coquerel's sifakas, for example, can be seen at the huge San Diego Zoo in California (about 100 acres), along with blue-eyed black, red ruffed, red-collared, and ring-tailed lemurs.
The Oakland Zoo, also in California, and the Houston Zoo in Texas both have lemurs at their facilities according to their websites.
According to the Lemur Conservation Network the following zoos also have lemurs:
- The Akron Zoo, in Akron, Ohio
- Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida
- Cotswold Wildlife Park in Bradwell Grove, England
- Naples Zoo in Naples, Florida
- NaturZoo Rheine in Rheine, Germany
- Parc Zoologique Ivoloina and Reniala Sarl Park, both in Madagascar
- Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.
Zoo Zürich in in Zürich, Switzerland
Red-Ruffed and Blue-Eyed Black Lemurs
Duke University Lemur Center
While lemurs are not technically living "in the wild," outside of Madagascar, the closest thing to it can be found at the Duke University Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina, where they are allowed to roam freely (as long as the temperature stays over 45 degrees Fahrenheit) on several acres of fenced-in woods. The center has the world’s largest and most diverse collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar.
The lemurs are trained to come when summoned for medical check-ups, weather emergencies, etc. for their own safety.
Note: Learn about the Adopt a Lemur program at the center by clicking here.
The center is located at 3705 Erwin Road in Durham, less than 10 minutes from Duke’s West Campus, and tours are available by appointment. There are nine different, distinct types of tours available, catering to all ages and interest levels.
Golden-Crowned Sifaka Lemurs
Sifaka Lemurs and Their Unique Habitats
There are several different species of sifaka lemurs, and they are all strikingly beautiful creatures but they tend to live in different areas of the island of Madagascar. Each region of the island has drastically different climates because of the wind currents from the ocean; and the land is divided by large, volcanic mountain ranges. Each sifaka habitat is unique. For example:
- The silky sifaka lives in the tropical forests of northeastern Madagascar in an area of extreme moisture.
- The Coquerel's sifaka lives in the northwestern forests of Madagascar (just across the island from the silky sifaka).
- The Verreaux's sifaka lives in the spiny forest and dry forests located in the southern part of the island.
As you can see, the island of Madagascar, (the world's fourth-largest island with an area over 200,000 square miles), is unlike any other place on our planet.
Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur
The Collared Brown Lemur
Von der Decken's Sifaka Lemur
Some Lemurs Are Large; Some Are Small
Facts About the Gray Mouse Lemur
According to researchers at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC, a lemur’s boldness or shyness may have been passed down along its family tree (referring to a behavioral experiment the center conducted with gray mouse lemurs). Here are some more interesting facts about this tiny primate (no, it's not a rodent):
- They are the largest of the mouse lemurs (although still one of the smallest primates in the world).
- They feed on plants, insects, and even small vertebrates.
- They are nocturnal and spend most of the day resting in tree holes.
- It's hard to distinguish males from females because they show almost no sexual dimorphism.
- They are said to have a promiscuous mating system with a breeding season that runs from March to September.
- On the ground, this lemur moves in a frog-like fashion, but in the trees, it leaps about using its hind legs in a springing motion.
- They will live significantly longer in captivity than in the wild, where they have many predators, including birds of prey, owls, mammals such as mongooses, and snakes.
Coquerel's Sifaka Lemur
Ring-Tailed Lemur Facts
Ring-tailed lemurs are listed as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of their vanishing habitat (they are found only on the island of Madagascar and some tiny neighboring islands). Here are some interesting facts about this unusual primate:
- They are herbivores, eating mostly fruit, but they also eat leaves, flowers, tree bark and sap.
- They use their hands and feet to move through the trees, but cannot grip with their tails.
- They have a life-span of up to 18 years.
- They usually weigh from five to seven pounds.
- They mark their territory by scent, and unlike most lemurs, spend a lot of time on the ground.
- Both male and female ring-tailed lemurs live together in varying size groups of up to 30, called "troops," with a dominant female presiding over the whole group.
The Western Fork-Marked Lemur
- No author named, Meet the Lemurs. Retrieved 2/14/2018 from http://lemur.duke.edu
- Krystal D'Costa, What Can Social Behavior in Lemurs Tell Us About Ourselves? Retrieved 2/14/2018 from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com
- Kate Baggaley (2013), Lemurs Have Quirks Too. Retrieved from http://www.audubon.org 02/15/2018
© 2018 Mike and Dorothy McKenney