Ruffed Lemur


Red ruffed lemurs take their name from their plush chestnut- or orange-red coat, all the more striking because of their black face, tail, chest, and inner arms and legs. White fur marks the base of the head and may appear on hands and feet.

Their diet consists mostly of fruit, nectar, and pollen. As fruit-eaters, they play an important role as seed dispersers in Madagascar’s rainforests: they can swallow large seeds, which pass through their guts undigested and are secreted into the forest floor in their own packets of “fertilizer” (feces). When flowers are available, the lemurs eagerly feed on nectar by sticking their long noses deep into the flower. During this feeding, the flowers are not harmed, but the lemur’s snouts become coated with pollen, which is then transported to other flowers.

Red ruffed lemurs are restricted to the forests of the Masoala Peninsula near Maroantsetra in northeastern Madagascar. They have been seen just east of the Antainambalana River, which divides their range from that of the black and white ruffed lemurs. Luckily, this range includes the 840-square-mile Masoala National Park, Madagascar’s largest protected area.

Ruffed lemur babies are not as developed as the ring-tailed lemur’s. At birth, infants are not capable of grasping the mother, so if she needs to transport them, she simply picks up one infant at a time in her mouth. Mothers generally move their infants away from the nest after a week or two. In the days following birth, if the mother needs to leave the nest, the infant’s father will stand guard close by. Infants develop rapidly, and by three or four weeks they are capable of at least attempting to follow their mother on their own.

Ruffed lemurs are among the most vocal of the non-human primates. Their raucous, barking vocalizations might serve several purposes: they allow distant members of the same group to maintain contact with each other even when they are foraging separately; they warn would-be competitors of territory already occupied; and they might also serve to alert other group members of the presence of an aerial or ground predator.

Information collected from and