Geographic Distribution and Habitat
- Lemurs are endemic to the island of Madagascar, meaning they are only found on Madagascar and nowhere else in the world. On the island, these Lemurs are found inhabiting the eastern rainforest zone from the Andringitra Massif in the south, to the Tsaratanana Massif in the north. Within the rainforest, the Red- Bellied Lemur lives and forages in the primary and secondary rainforest at medium to high altitudes.
Size & weight
- These rare lemurs are about the same size as a house cat. Their mass range is about 2-3 kg (4.4 – 6.6 lbs.) and their average length is 36 - 54 cm (14.2- 21.3 in).
- The males and females of this species have differing appearances. The upper body of both the males and females is covered in long, dense reddish-brown fur. While the males’ underbellies continue to be reddish-brown color, females’ underbellies are a cream color.
- Both sexes have a dark gray face and muzzle. Around their eyes they have a white patch that looks like a teardrop. This is much larger and distinctive in the males than in the females. This teardrop marking distinguishes this species of lemur from the other species of lemurs that live in the same area.
- Both sexes have a tail that is black in color.
Behavior and Lifestyle
- Although it is safer for them to forage up in the trees, Red-bellied Lemurs have been found to forage on the ground. Their main food source is fruit, but they cannot solely rely on fruit because so many animals desire it and because of seasonal constraints.
- Other sources of food include flowers, leaves, and a small portion of invertebrates. They have been found to consume more than 70 different types of plants.
- Because they are specialized frugivores (they eat fruit), lemurs are essential for the growth of the forest through seed dispersal.
Behavior and Lifestyle
- These primates are cathemeral, which means that they are active intermittently throughout the day and night.
- They normally live in small family groups of about two to six individuals that consist of an adult pair and their dependent offspring. It is rare for primates to have this type of monogamous mating pair. Both males and females take care of their offspring.
- All offspring leave their natal group, after sexual maturity, to meet their own mate and make a new group.
- Males have a scent gland on the top of their heads to mark their territories. They are protective of their territories and actively defend them. Red-bellies lemurs use their scent glands to mark their area so other lemurs know their territory in order to avoid confrontation.
Conservation Status and Threats
- These Lemurs are listed as Vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List in 2007. This is due to great habitat loss on Madagascar. Slash-and-burn agriculture continues to be a problem that destroys habitats of many animals to make room for human agriculture. Illegal logging and hunting continues to be a major problem as well.
- Females rule the family groups. They decide where to forage for the day in their home ranges.
- Their mating patterns are seasonal. They mate between May and June and then females give birth between September and October.
- Mothers carry the babies on their bellies for the first 2 weeks while nursing them. Then both parents take turns carrying the offspring till about 5 weeks when the mother starts to reject carrying them. This is when the father starts carrying them till they are about 100 days old.
Some photos courtesy of ARKive.org
Written by Heidi Giancola, June 2016