The African island of Madagascar is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Here are some of the more beautifully exotic, and strange, animals that inhabit the island.
Anyone who’s seen Animal Planet’s Zoboomafoo or the more recent Madagascar movies knows that ring-tailed lemurs hail from Madagascar. What you might not know is that out of the ninety-nine species and subspecies of lemurs, Madagascar is home to a whopping ninety species! Lemurs are primates, and Madagascar is second only to Brazil in the number of primate species endemic to it.
The name lemur is Latin in origin and has a poetic if somewhat eerie translation: “ghosts” or “spirits of the night.” This name is probably based on reference to the nocturnal lemurs, because it’s been surmised that the name stems from light reflecting from the lemurs large eyes at night. All lemurs don’t come in your standard black and white. There are brown lemurs, black ones, red ones, gray ones, yellow ones and probably a few colors in between also. Just recently, three new species of mouse lemurs were discovered. Mouse lemurs are the smallest of the lemurs. They keep high in the trees, and use high-pitched chirps to communicate during their nocturnal foraging.
All lemurs are arboreal, and have long tails to help balance them when jumping through the forests of Madagascar. The Indri, the largest species of lemur, is the only species without a long tail. This doesn’t stop the big black and white lemur jumping from tree to tree though. The Indri has a variety of noises in its vocabulary, including barks and smooching noises. The Indri is well-known for its beautiful “singing” that it uses to communicate. Unlike many of the lemur species, the Indri is diurnal. It lives in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar.
Male (bottom) and Female Black Lemur
The female Black lemur is especially pretty. Despite its name, the only black on the females of this species is their snout and their hands and feet. The rest of their body is a russet-red, while their dark nose and eyes are framed by wild-looking tufts of snowy white hair. The black lemur lives in the forests of Northern Madagascar and lives on a selection of flowers and fruits.
The Bamboo lemur looks more like a monkey than its other lemur relatives. The golden bamboo lemur is the more striking of the bamboo lemur species. What makes it stand out from other lemurs is its diet. The bamboo lemur is a bamboo connoisseur, and like the Giant Panda, is able to consume vast quantities of bamboo without any ill effects. The amount of cyanide a bamboo lemur ingests from one day of eating bamboo would be enough to kill three men!
(you can get a glimpse of how its eyes gave it the name “lemur”)
Mouse and dwarf lemurs win the cute award in the lemur family. They also inhabit all parts of Madagascar. These tiny bundles of fur are nocturnal, and have large eyes that help them see in the dark. Their appearance resembles that of a Bush Baby or a Tarsier, both of which happen to be cousins to the lemur. Dwarf lemurs have an unusually fat tail, because they hibernate during the winter, living off of fat that is stored in their tail.
The red-ruffed lemur is different from other lemurs in its family life. Instead of the female carrying the young like most primates, the red-ruffed lemur builds a nest for its babies. The young stay in the nest while the parents forage for food, and are cared for by the mother and the father.
There are many more types of lemurs living on Madagascar, but far too many to cover in a short article. For some great pictures and a brief paragraph about several kinds of lemur, visit Wild Madagascar.