Red Ruffed Lemur
The Red ruffed lemurs are unique, medium-sized lemurs with a primate-like appearance. These animals differ greatly from all other types of lemur. They exhibit thick, soft, reddish coat with a long, black and heavily furred tail. The tail base is ringed with pink colored fur. On the top of their head, the Red ruffed lemurs display a conspicuous white colored tuff. They have black faces and long snouts.
The natural range of this species is the Masoala Peninsula in northeastern Madagascar, where the Red ruffed lemurs generally occupy deciduous tropical forests.
Habits and lifestyle
The social structure of Red ruffed lemurs is largely associated with their habitat. Some populations may form groups of 18 - 32 individuals, whereas other can live in smaller units of 2 - 5 animals. When looking for food, a group usually divides into smaller sub-groups. Various groups may have the same core home range, where they rear their offspring. With the coming of the wet season, the food becomes abundant and these animals gather into larger aggregations. As the food sources gradually exhaust by the end of the wet season, these large units break up into smaller groups that disperse. As diurnal animals, red ruffed lemurs are active during the daytime hours, particularly in the morning and evening. They are known to display territorial behavior and border scuffles may sometimes take place. The communication system of this vocal species includes at least 12 different calls. They most frequently give out low grunts, gurgles and cackle-like roars, which are thought to act as alarm calls.
Diet and nutrition
Red ruffed lemurs have a polygynous mating system, where males generally mate with females in their group. Occasionally, males from the outside come to the home range of a group to mate with receptive females. Breeding occurs during the dry season, in May-July. Up to 6 young are born after a very short gestation period (90 - 103 days) for a primate of this body size. Young are raised in nests or secluded places in special areas known as parkings. These parkings are located in the core of the group's home range. Group members practice communal care, while mothers are far in the forest. Between 3 and 7 weeks old, the infants begin venturing from the nest. Weaning occurs by 4 months old. The age of reproductive maturity is 1 - 2 years old in males and 2 - 3 years old in females.
Currently, the Red ruffed lemurs are among the most endangered lemur species in Madagascar due to tiny range and small population. Most Red ruffed lemurs live outside the protected area called the Masoala Nature Reserve, which poses additional threat to the survival of these animals. The Red ruffed lemurs are often captured for pet or animal trade. Other notable threats to this species are hunting and habitat destruction.
According to the Woodland Park Zoo, the total population of the Red ruffed lemurs in the wild is 1,000 to 10,000 individuals. However, this species’ numbers are decreasing today, and the animal is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List.
The primary role of these animals in the local ecosystem is pollination for various hardwood trees. The Red ruffed lemurs have long snouts, resembling these of foxes. When eating nectar of deep tubular flowers, their snouts are covered with pollen, which they carry to other flowers that they consume.
Fun facts for kids
- Like all prosimian species, these lemurs use only their teeth when grooming because of not having extensive digit coordination.
- The second toe on each of their hind foot has a special claw, helping the animal brush its long and fluffy fur.
- Along with well-developed senses of smell, vision and hearing, these lemurs are able to identify group members by scent glands, found on their rump.
- When threatened, Red ruffed lemurs emit alarm calls that are heard and recognized by their co-subspecies, the Black and white ruffed lemurs. These two animals recognize warning signals of each other, which help them to avoid threats.
- These two above mentioned subspecies occasionally interbreed, yielding an offspring with black, white, and red coloration.
- Due to the habit of spreading their legs to sunbathe, the Red ruffed lemurs were considered by early native people of the area as sacred animals, worshipping the sun. Hence, these animals weren't hunted for centuries thanks to this mistaken belief.
- The thick and heavily furred tail of this animal is multifunctional. When threatened, the lemur gives visual signals with its tail. When leaping between trees, it uses its tail as a prop to balance.