The Mongoose lemur is a native Madagascar animal. Meanwhile, this primate is one of two lemur species, found outside Madagascar. The natural range of Mongoose lemur contains also the Comoros Islands, located between Madagascar and Africa. Male and female Mongoose lemurs look so different that are often mistaken for separate species. Although individuals of both sexes exhibit grey-brown overall coloration with a grey muzzle and black nose, the color patterns of their faces differ greatly: males display pale colored faces with red cheeks and beards, whereas females usually have darker faces with white cheeks and beards.
This species has a rather small natural range, limited to north-western Madagascar. However, Mongoose lemurs have also been introduced to the Comoros Islands of Moheli and Anjouan. Additionally, a few feral individuals occur on Grande Comoro Island. Within their natural range, Mongoose lemurs typically prefer living in drier forests with deciduous trees. Populations on smaller islands usually inhabit more humid forests. Overall, Mongoose lemurs are able to live in a wide variety of environments.
Habits and lifestyle
The unique behavior of these animals noticeably differs from that of most primates. Their activity habits largely depend on specific population and season. The Mongoose lemurs are usually nocturnal during the dry season, becoming diurnal and/or crepuscular with the approaching of the wet season. They are highly social animals, forming small family units of 3 - 4 lemurs, which typically consist of an adult pair and their young, occupying a small home range. However, those in the Comoros are known to occur in larger groups. Reaching maturity at 2.5 - 3.5, Mongoose lemurs disperse, leaving their family group. As territorial animals, they define their home ranges through scent and vocalizations. The Mongoose lemurs live in a female-dominated society. Females have an exclusive right to choosing food and mates. Grooming is an important part of their lives, strengthening relationships between group members.
Diet and nutrition
The Mongoose lemurs have a monogamous mating system, where a male and a female form a long-lasting relationship, although populations in certain areas may exhibit polygynous mating system, which is typical for lemurs and where each male mates with numerous females. The Mongoose lemurs mate from April to June. Gestation period lasts for 128 days, yielding a single infant, sometimes - twins. Females give birth to only one baby per year, typically in August-October. At the early stage of its development, the newborn lemur is carried by its mother. Nursing period lasts for around 135 days. Overall, female Mongoose lemurs are known to be attentive mothers, grooming, playing and socializing with their offspring. The age of maturity is 2.5 - 3.5 year old.
Presently, the dry-deciduous forest habitat is being destroyed for pastures and charcoal. As a result, the population in the north-west undergoes a sharp decline. Mongoose lemurs are hunted for their meat across much of their habitat. These animals are also commonly trapped to be sold as pets. And finally, these Mongoose lemurs are persecuted due to being considered potential pests, which can damage crops.
Currently, the Animal Info resource provides no information on Mongoose lemurs’ population. However, according to data of 1994, the overall population of this species varied between 1,000 and 10,000 individuals. On that moment, Mongoose lemurs were listed as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List. Today, this species’ numbers are decreasing, and the animal is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List.
Due to their frugivorous diet, the Mongoose lemurs act key seed dispersers of certain plants. Additionally, they contribute to pollination of some species by consuming pollen. And finally, they form an important link in the food chain of their range by being a prey species for many local predators.
Fun facts for kids
- One of the most favorite foods of Mongoose lemurs is nectar. During the dry season, the flowers of the Kapok tree open in the evenings, exposing an abundance of nectar, which composes as much as 80% of their diet in some areas.
- The well-developed sense of smell allows neighboring groups of these animals to communicate through scent marking.
- Male Mongoose lemurs leave scent marks with their heads that often gradually become bald.
- During social grooming, they use the ‘toothcomb’ of 6 teeth, emerging from their lower jaw.
- Lemurs are among native Madagascar animals. The island of Madagascar has separated from continental Africa about 50 - 100 million years ago.
- As much as one-third of originally existing lemur species are nowadays totally gone extinct.