Ring-tailed Lemur

Lemur catta

Ring-tailed lemurFound only in the southern part of Madagascar in the dry forest and bush, the ring-tailed lemur is a large, vocal primate with brownish-gray fur and a distinctive tail with alternating black and white rings.

Male and female ring-tailed lemurs are similar physically. They are roughly the same size, measuring about 42.5 cm (1.4 ft.) from head to rump and weighing roughly 2.25 kg (5 lb.).

Highly social creatures, ring-tailed lemurs live in groups averaging 17 members. Their society is female-dominant, and a group will often contain multiple breeding females.

Ring-tailed lemurs are adept at climbing and jumping. They move easily from branch to branch. Their long bushy tails cannot grip, but they do help them balance.

Ring-tailed lemur jumping

Ring-tailed lemurs spend a third of their time on the ground foraging for food. When the lemurs travel over ground, they keep their tails in the air to ensure everyone in the group is in sight and stays together.

Aside from using visual cues, ring-tailed lemurs also communicate via scent and vocalizations. They mark their territory by scent.

Ring-tailed lemurA male lemur will also engage in stink fights during mating seasons, wiping his tail with the scent glands on his wrists and waving it at another male while staring menacingly. Eventually one male will back down and run away.

Vocally, ring-tailed lemurs have several different alarms calls that alert members to danger. They have several predators, including fossas (mammals related to the mongoose), Madagascar Harrier-hawks, Madagascar buzzards, Madagascar ground boas, civets, and domestic cats and dogs.

What Ring-tailed Lemurs Eat

Ring-tailed lemurs forage for leaves, flowers, bark, sap, and small invertebrates to eat.

Ring-tailed Lemur Reproduction

Female ring-tailed lemurs reproduce starting at 3 years of age, generally giving birth to one baby a year.

When born, a ring-tailed lemur baby weighs less than 100 g (3 oz.). The newborn is carried on its mother’s chest for 1-2 weeks and then is carried on her back. At 2 weeks, the baby starts eating solid food and begins venturing out on its own. But the juvenile is not fully weaned until 5 months of age.

Ring-tailed lemurs live up to 20 years in the wild.

Conservation Status

Ring-tailed lemurs are considered endangered by the IUCN Red List. The main threat to their population is habitat destruction. Much of their habitat is being converted to farmland or burned for the production of charcoal. However, the ring-tailed lemur is popular in zoos, and they do comparatively well in captivity and reproduce regularly.

What You Can Do to Help

You can help ring-tailed lemurs by contributing to the Lemur Conservation Foundation through volunteer work or donations. The WWF also provides the opportunity to adopt a lemur. The money donated goes to help establish and manage parks and protected areas in Madagascar.

Ring-tailed Lemur Range

Ring-tailed lemur range map

The ring-tailed lemur is found only in the southern part of Madagascar in the dry forest and bush.

Ring-tailed Lemur Resources

Blog Posts about the Ring-tailed Lemur

About the Author

P.A. Smith is a middle school Language Arts teacher. He is also a contributing editor of My House Rabbit.