Northern Sportive Lemur
Sahafary sportive lemur, Northern weasel lemur
The Northern sportive lemur is distinguished by a dark band on its pale grey-brown back, stretching from the head to the tail. This animal is among the smallest Lepilemur species. The forward pointing eyes provide the Northern sportive lemur with a well-developed binocular vision. This lemur exhibits grey under-parts as well as brown coloration around its head top and shoulders. It travels between trees by taking leaps. The Northern sportive lemur leaps in an upright vertical posture, using the pads on its feet to cling to a tree, after which the animal rushes to a neighboring tree.
The small natural range of this species is limited to the extreme north of Madagascar, stretching from Montagne d’Ambre to the Mahavay River and Vohemar. Within this territory, the Northern sportive lemurs inhabit both dry deciduous forests and the wetter evergreen forests.
Habits and lifestyle
The behavior of these lemurs in insufficiently explored. However, the Northern sportive lemurs are known to be nocturnal animals, sleeping during the daytime hours. They are arboreal creatures and their sleeping sites are tree holes or foliage of trees, located at heights of 1 - 8 meters off the ground. As sportive lemurs, these animals are likely to be ‘caecotrophic’, breaking down cellulose of the leaves they consume by re-digesting their own feces, since this leaf-based diet gives them very little energy. A female will yield a single infant, which lives with its mother. When foraging, she will leave the young on a tree branch. Meanwhile, males tend to be solitary and highly territorial. The home range of each male usually overlaps with these of multiple females, whom he will visit during the breeding season. If another breeding male appear on this territory, the local male will fiercely defend its mating rights. The territorial behavior of males is also displayed by specific calls, intended to announce the presence of an individual in a particular area.
Diet and nutrition
Northern sportive lemurs are polygynous, which means that one male gets an exclusive right to mating with multiple females. They breed between April and August, while most births occur in September-December. Gestation period lasts for 120 - 150 days, yielding a single infant per year. The baby is nursed, cared and protected only by its mother. Weaning occurs at 4 months old, after which many infants continue living with their mothers up until 1 year old. The age of maturity is about 1.5 years old.
Along with most Madagascar species, the Northern sportive lemurs heavily suffer from loss of their natural habitat, primarily because of charcoal production. Another serious concern is illegal hunting for meat, although the Northern sportive lemurs are officially protected in this area.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Northern sportive lemurs is only 50 individuals. This species’ numbers continue decreasing, and the animal is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List.
Due to their folivorous diet, the Northern sportive lemurs may have an impact on the trees they use. Additionally, they form an important link in the food chain of their range as a prey species for native boa predators.
Fun facts for kids
- The Sportive lemurs are so called due to their unusual response to a threat: when feeling danger, they adopt a boxer-like posture.
- Two most common vocalizations of these animals are a loud call and a contact rejection signal.
- The word 'lemur' originates from 'lemures' - a Latin word that means 'spirits of the night' or 'haunter'.
In the native Malagasy language, spoken on Madagascar, lemur means 'ghost'.
- Lemurs are known to be highly intelligent creatures, able to use tools in their daily lives as well as perform simple arithmetic tasks.
- Although many people cannot accept the idea of keeping animals in captivity, lemurs love living in zoos.