| Lemurs: Physical Description, Communication, Conservation
The lemur is a kind of primate, which means it is related to apes
and humans. You
would never know it from the way it looks though! There are many
kinds of lemurs, but most have long, pointy noses, which contribute
to their excellent sense of smell. With over 30 species, each type
of lemur looks very different. They vary color from reddish brown
to gray, and come in all different sizes, too. The smallest lemur,
the pygmy mouse lemur, weighs only one ounce. But the biggest lemurs,
the Indri and Diademed Sifaka lemurs, can weigh up o fifteen pounds,
which is about as much as a big cat.
Communication: Lemurs use their sense of smell to communicate
with each other. These primates have scent glands on their bottoms
and on their feet that leave odors on surfaces they cross. When
other lemurs pass by, they smell those odors and can tell that another
lemur has been there. Lemurs have big, bushy tails that they wave
in the air as another form of communication. These big tails also
help lemurs balance when they leap from tree to tree.
Habits: Most lemurs are arboreal, which means they spend
most of their time in trees and bushes. They have a good grip for
hanging on to branches.
Only the Ringtail lemur spends most of its time on the ground. Usually
lemurs that are awake during the day live in groups. Besides using
scent glands and tails to communicate, they also make noises. Nocturnal
that are active at night, tend to live alone.
Here to Hear Their Growl
Habitat: All lemurs are found only in Madagascar (an island
off the coast of Africa), and the neighboring Comores Islands. But
on these islands, lemurs live in a variety of habitats. Some live
in moist, tropical rainforests, while others live in dry desert
Reproduction and Rearing: When lemurs are born, they are
carried in their mothers' mouths until they are old enough to hang
on to her fur by themselves. Most lemurs live for about eighteen
Diet: Lemurs usually have a vegetarian diet, consisting of
leaves and fruit, although they will occasional eat insects or smaller
Status: Out of the fifty different kinds of lemurs, ten of
those types are critically endangered, seven are endangered, and
nineteen are considered vulnerable.
Conservation & Ecology: Lemurs play an important role
in the ecology of Madagascar and the Comores Islands, because they
disperse seeds from the fruit they eat. These seeds can then grow
into new plants, which is important because the forests of Madagascar
are being destroyed at a very high rate.
Lemurs are threatened largely because their habitats are being destroyed.
People in Madagascar cut down the forests there to use the wood,
and to grow agricultural crops in its place. In fact, eighty percent
of the lemur's original habitat in Madagascar has been destroyed.
Although the lemurs themselves help to disperse seeds for new plants,
they cannot keep up with the people that cut the forests down. Lemur
populations are also hurt by hunting. Fortunately, however, all
types of lemurs are protected by CITES, which makes it illegal hunt
or capture lemurs for trade, except for scientific research, and
to breed in zoos. These laws are well-enforced, and the lemur has
been a longtime focus of conservation efforts. But although the
lemurs are no longer being hunted as much as in the past, deforestation
is still threatening their survival.
For more information on Lemurs, go to Duke
University. The most comprehensive primate website!