Greater Bamboo Lemur

Greater Bamboo Lemur

Broad-nosed bamboo lemur, Broad-nosed gentle lemur

Prolemur simus
Population size
aBnove 500
Life Span
17 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus ), also known as the broad-nosed bamboo lemur and the broad-nosed gentle lemur, is the largest bamboo lemur, at over five pounds or nearly 2.5 kilograms. It has greyish brown fur and white ear tufts, and has a head-body length of around one and a half feet, or forty to fifty centimeters. They have relatively long tails and long back legs for leaping vertically amongst the trees of their forest habitat. It feeds almost exclusively on the bamboo species of Cathariostachys madagascariensis, preferring the shoots but also eating the pith and leaves. It is unknown how their metabolism deals with the cyanide found in the shoots. The typical daily dose would be enough to kill humans. Greater bamboo lemurs occasionally consume fungi, flowers, and fruit. Its main food source is bamboo and it is the main reason why it has become critically endangered. Areas with high density of bamboo have major human disturbances, where humans cut or illegally cut down bamboo. Its only confirmed predators are the fossa and the bushpigs, but raptors are also suspected. Its current range is restricted to southeastern Madagascar, although fossils indicate its former range extended across bigger areas of the island, including as far north as Ankarana. Some notable parts of the current range are the Ranomafana and Andringitra National Parks.

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Greater bamboo lemurs live in groups of up to 28. Individuals are extremely gregarious. The species may be the only lemur in which the male is dominant, although this is not certain. Because of their social nature, greater bamboo lemurs have at least seven different calls. Males have been observed taking bamboo pith away from females that had put significant effort into opening the bamboo stems. In captivity, greater bamboo lemurs have lived over the age of 17.

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The Greater bamboo lemur is an easily recognizable primate with characteristic white tufts on its ears. This animal is the largest of the three bamboo lemur species and one of a few mammals, having a bamboo-based diet. Moreover, this lemur totally depends on bamboo. This unique sedentary primate spends most of its active time feeding on bamboo. Unfortunately, this specialist species cannot adapt to quick changes in its environment. The Greater bamboo lemurs were firstly discovered in 1870. However, due to large-scale clearing and resulting fragmentation of their rainforest habitat, these animals had to live in small, isolated populations and were considered to have gone extinct until the beginning of the 20th century, being discovered again in 1972.



Biogeographical realms

The Greater bamboo lemur is a Madagascar primate, inhabiting areas in and around the Ranomafana National Park in south-eastern Madagascar. Additionally, this animal may occur in the Andringitra Massif and near Vondrozo. Preferred habitat of the Greater bamboo lemur is humid primary rainforest with tall bamboo trees.

Greater Bamboo Lemur habitat map

Climate zones

Greater Bamboo Lemur habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

These lemurs are social creatures, forming groups of up to 28 individuals, although an average group size is 4 - 7 animals. They occasionally occur in mixed groups with Brown lemurs and Gray gentle lemurs. The social system of Greater bamboo lemurs is unknown. However, unlike most lemurs, males of this species are likely to dominate females. As crepuscular animals, Greater bamboo lemurs are generally active at dawn and dusk. However, these animals have also been reported to be active nocturnally. Greater bamboo lemurs are tree-dwelling primates, but spend considerable amount of time on the ground. Greater bamboo lemurs communicate with each other through vocalizations. One of the main calls is the contact call - a strong yelping vocalization, which gathers the group members. Another important call is the repeated alarm signal, given out when threatened or disturbed and pronounced "ouik-grrraaa".

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Greater bamboo lemurs are herbivores (folivores). The diet of this species consists of 98% giant bamboo and 2% flowers, leaves, soil and fruits. Unlike other lemurs, these animals are known to consume mature leaves.

Mating Habits

142-149 days
1 infant
8 months

Greater bamboo lemurs are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. Mating occurs in May-June. Females generally give birth in November, which coincides with the transitional dry and wet seasons. A single infant is born after a gestation period of 142 - 149 days. During the first 5 weeks of its life, the newborn lemur is cared by its mother. When the infant is 7 - 8 weeks old, the mother gradually deceases nursing, after which the baby begins to explore its surroundings, venturing to faraway areas. Weaning takes place at about 8 months old. And finally, at 3 - 4 years old, young males leave their natal groups.


Population threats

One of the biggest threats to the population of this endangered species is large-scale cutting of bamboo trees, on which the Greater bamboo lemurs are dependent. Another serious concern is destruction of rainforests for slash-and-burn agriculture. Furthermore, localized hunting as well as habitat disturbance, fragmentation and destruction are compounded by very small natural range. Additionally, the Greater bamboo lemurs are unable to successfully breed due to living in small, isolated populations. On the other hand, some of these isolated populations in lowland areas are known to carry various parasites, threatening not only their health, but also lifespan.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Greater bamboo lemurs is over 500 individuals, living in 11 subpopulations. Each of these subpopulations contains less than 250 adult lemurs. Overall, the population of Greater bamboo lemurs is decreasing today, and these animals are classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

The role of Greater bamboo lemurs in the ecosystem of their habitat is insufficiently explored, although their diet allows them to serve as important seeds dispersers of some plants and primarily - bamboo.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Possibly the world's fourth largest island, Madagascar is slightly larger than the state of California. Since the island divided from Africa around 160 million years ago, as much as 80% of its plant and animal species (including lemurs) are native and endemic exclusively to Madagascar. A study, published in 2010, has revealed that lemurs use ‘rafts’ of floating vegetation or driftwood to get to Madagascar. Riding on these rafts, some individuals take long trips of up to 270 miles from continental to the island.
  • Lemurs belong to prosimian species. The word 'prosimian' literally means 'before monkeys'. As a matter of fact, these animals once inhabited continental Africa, but were later displaced by monkeys - their main competitors for food. As a result, lemurs are currently found only in Madagascar.
  • The word 'lemur' means ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit of the dead’ in Latin. These animals are so called due to their specific vocalizations. When first hearing the unusually loud, "eerie" shrieks of lemurs in the forest canopy, early explorers thought they had heard voices of spirits.
  • These animals easily adapt to their environment. If necessary, they are able to reduce their metabolism and reproduction rate.


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

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