Madagascar's Lemurs

11th June 2010

Lemurs are members of the class of primates known as ‘prosimians’ which means ‘primitive simians or pre-primates’. simply catogarised, the most common species of Lemurs are:

 

Alaotran Gentle Lemur

Aye-Aye

Indri

Stifaka

Black and White Ruffed Lemur

Red Ruffed Lemur

Ring Tailed Lemur

 

Lemurs really are very small in size. The smallest species weighs about 30 grams while the largest species weighs about 10 kilograms.

Lemurs: description

Lemurs normally have long and pointed noses. They have various types of colours of their fur and come in different sizes depending upon their species. They have four legs and a tail, which sometimes is longer than the body. Lemurs have opposing thumbs and long grasping toes. Instead of claws, lemurs have nails. Lemurs also have a reflective layer over their retina which causes their eyes to shine in the night.

It is said that they have a limited vision of colour. Lemurs depend heavily on their sense of smell. Their nasal cavities are large and quite moist.

Lemurs recognize each other by their smell and can also smell if another lemur has passed by. They have scent glands on the bottom of their paws which leave their scent signature as and when they move around.

Lemurs: life and lifestyle

Lemurs are primarily arboreal, which means that they live on trees. However, the larger species of lemurs also live on the ground. They move around by jumping across the branches of trees. Some species of lemurs are nocturnal (or active at night) whereas some species are diurnal (or active by day). Lemurs eat nuts, fruits and berries that grow on the trees. Sometimes, they also eat small insects or smaller animals. Lemurs live and move about in groups. Their society is primarily matriarchal – which means that the females are dominant over the males in the group. When baby lemurs are born, the mother carries them around in her mouth, till they grow old enough to hang on to her fur on their own. In the wild the normal life span of a Lemur is about eighteen years.

Lemurs: an endangered species

Lemurs are very much a part of the ecology of Madagascar. They eat fruits and berries and throw the seeds on the ground. This prompts the growth of new trees. However, modern life has begun to take its toll on the lives of these furry creatures. Man has cut down their home, the jungle, to make way for civilization. Either the forests are being cut down for wood, or for the purposes of agriculture or for putting up buildings. Also some species of lemurs (the Aye-Aye for example) are considered to be an inauspicious omen. This causes their hunting and killing. Traps are often laid to catch these little primates.

All of this has led to the lemurs being declared as an endangered species. At least seven of the different species of lemurs are considered to be endangered, while 19 of them are thought to be vulnerable to extinction. It is all up to us to protect and preserve these wonderful creatures which are actually an invaluable part of the ecological system of the island of Madagascar.

Many people are coming forward and taking a stand for the conservation and preservation of the forest land and trees so that the natural habitat of the Lemurs is not destroyed, and these cute furry animals are not lost to the world for ever.

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