Black Lemur
Eulemur macaco
Population size
Life Span
20-25 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The black lemur (Eulemur macaco ) is a species of lemur from the family Lemuridae. Like all lemurs, it is endemic to Madagascar. Originally, the species was thought to have two subspecies, Eulemur macaco macaco and Eulemur macaco flavifrons, both of which were elevated to species status by Mittermeier et al. in 2008 to Eulemur macaco and Eulemur flavifrons respectively. The most startling difference between the two species is the eye colour; Eulemur flavifrons, the blue-eyed black lemur, has blue eyes, while Eulemur macaco, the black lemur, has brown or orange eyes, and also has ear tufts.

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Both species live in northwest Madagascar. The black lemur occurs in moist forests in the Sambirano region of Madagascar and on nearby islands. The blue-eyed black lemur is restricted to the Sahamalaza Peninsula and adjacent forests. There are reports of the two species hybridizing where their ranges overlap in Manongarivo Special Reserve.

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The Black lemur lives only on Madagascar and is a rare type of lemur. Males and females look very different from each other, the males having a dark brown or black coat with beady yellow-orange eyes and black tufted ears, while the females have such a different appearance that for a long time they were thought to belong to a different species. Females are tawny on the head and back, with rich-chestnut brown to golden-brown underparts. Their limbs have paler fur and their tails are a darker chestnut brown. Their ears have big tufts like the males, but the hair is white, and is long enough to extend around their cheeks.



Biogeographical realms

Black lemurs live only in the northwestern tip of the island of Madagascar and two neighboring islands of Nosy Be and Nosy Komba. In Madagascar, it is found north of the Andranomalaza River. It is found in moist forests in the Sambirano region, rainforests on the two offshore islands, and within modified habitats of coffee, cashew nut and timber plantations.

Black Lemur habitat map

Climate zones

Black Lemur habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Black lemurs live in a group of 2-15 individuals, with equal numbers of adult males and females, along with their offspring. The dominant female dictates the movements and activities of the group. Group interactions are through grooming, grunts, and contact calls. Home ranges cover 5 to 6 hectares, with considerable overlapping with the ranges of other groups. Black lemurs show a pattern of activity that is almost unique for primates and very rare for other arboreal mammals, consisting of bursts of activity either during the day or the night, though most takes place early morning and in the late afternoon. 'Cathemeral' is the name of this activity pattern, meaning ‘all hours’, in contrast with the usual division of either day or nighttime activity. During the day these lemurs forage in the canopy's understory, as this gives more protection from predators.

Group name

Diet and Nutrition

The Black lemur can be described as either frugivores or folivores. They eats fruit, flowers, leaves, nectar, fungi and sometimes invertebrates like millipedes.

Mating Habits

125 days
1-2 infants
5-6 months

Black lemurs are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. Males tend to travel from one group to another during the breeding season, which is in April-May. The gestation period is 125 days. Usually one offspring is born, though twins are quite common. Young will cling to the mother’s belly for the first three weeks, only moving to suckle. Then, being heavier, they ride on their mother’s back, becoming fully weaned at 5 - 6 months old. Black lemurs become reproductively mature at around 2 years of age.


Population threats

Illegal timber exploitation, firewood and charcoal production are the main threats to this species. Other threats to the black lemur include destruction of their habitat, poaching for their fur or meat, and capture for zoos or the pet trade. In some areas they are also killed as crop pests.

Population number

No overall population estimate is available for Black lemurs. According to IUCN Red list, this species occurs in high densities from 48.35 to 398.93 individuals/km2 in Nosy Faly Penisula and in Manongarivo Special reserve. However today this species' numbers are decreasing and it is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

Black lemurs are the sole dispersers of seeds for many of the tree species within their range. They may also have an important role as pollinators because they eat nectar as well as fruit. To the extent that they are food for predators, these lemurs may impact local food webs.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Black lemurs sometimes mate with blue-eyed lemurs, to produce brown-eyed offspring.
  • A group of Black lemurs is known as a "troop".
  • "Lemur" in Latin means "ghost". This suits black lemurs perfectly because, as tree dwellers, often they seem to be invisible up high in the dense foliage, though their movements and calls are easily heard from down on the ground.
  • Lemurs have flat fingernails like those of humans.
  • Each hind limb has a second toe known as a “toilet claw”, which is mostly used for grooming.
  • Lemur males compete with each other by waging “stink wars”, where the glands at their wrists are used to scent their tails.
  • Due to their arboreal lifestyle, lemurs are able to do such amazing things as making a sashay-type movement up on their hind legs while their arms are stretched above their heads while moving along the ground.


1. Black Lemur Wikipedia article -
2. Black Lemur on The IUCN Red List site -

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