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Like most lemurs, ring-tails are most active during the daytime. Unlike others, however, they spend more time on the ground than in trees. Ring-tailed lemur groups, which number from 3 to 25 individuals, consist of a mix of adult females and males, plus juveniles. The female dominate the group, earning the best feeding and sleeping spots and generally keeping the others in their place. She is also responsible for the group’s defense. Female lemurs remain with the group they were born into, while males transfer to different groups.
Ring-tail groups live within a home range, which changes seasonally depending on the availability of food. To defend their territory, females mark trees with genital smears and males use a wrist gland to gouge their scent into saplings. Territories average 15 to 37 acres, and different groups’ home ranges sometimes overlap.
The ring-tailed lemur eats primarily fruits, leaves, flowers, herbs, bark, and sap. Occasionally, it will dine on insects. With their special footpads, ring-tails move around their forested-desert home (the “spiny forest”) like expert acrobats, plucking and eating the thorny plants’ tiny leaves.
A ring-tailed lemur mother gives birth to one or two young between August and October, when the rainy season begins. Newborns ride on their mother’s belly for the first two weeks, then graduate to riding on her back. It takes about two years for ring-tailed lemurs to reach adulthood. Lemurs, like most primates, are fairly long-lived. They have been recorded for up to 20 years in the wild and can live more than 35 years in zoos.
Some of My Neighbors
Brown Lemurs, Boa Constrictors, Eagles, Hawks, Fossas
Population Status & Threats
The ring-tailed lemur is classified as Vulnerable and faces a high risk of extinction due to hunting and habitat loss. Slash-and-burn agriculture, overgrazing by livestock, and the cutting of trees for charcoal production all contribute to the shrinking of the ring-tail’s forested home.
WCS Conservation Efforts
WCS has worked in Madagascar for over 13 years in site-based programs and on species-based conservation. Poverty and unsustainable resource use threaten the survival of the island’s wildlife and have dramatic impacts on the mostly rural population. However, Madagascar has adopted a new vision for the sustainable development of the country. WCS is a key partner in this country-wide conservation plan, helping to establish new protected areas and involve local communities in development and conservation plans. Learn more about WCS work in Madagascar.
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