STATUS IN THE WILD: Endangered
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
The ring-tailed lemur is extremely easy to tell apart from any other lemur species due to its distinctive long, black and white, ringed tail. It is a medium-sized lemur, ranging between five and eight pounds. Males and females have no physical characteristic differences, and both weigh about the same. Their ears are slightly more prominent than those of other lemur species, and they have special teeth in their lower jaw, often called a “dental comb,” which allows them to groom their hair.
Lemurs typically spend most of their time in the trees, using their fingers and toes to grip onto branches. They have semi-opposable thumbs on their hands, and the ability to hang upside down from their feet. They have multiple scent glands on their bodies and use these to mark branches and trees with their bodies to let other lemurs know they are around.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Ring-tailed lemurs live in groups known as troops. These groups are larger than any other lemur group, ranging from six to thirty different animals, averaging about seventeen of them. Both males and females live in the troops, but the females are dominant and reign over all lemurs. The alpha female lives in one group for her whole life, while males migrate among multiple groups. There are well-defined dominance hierarchies among the group members. Males have scent glands and will often rub their tails with their scent glands to out stink other males; however, both male and females have the scent glands and will mark their home range.
Mating between these lemurs typically takes place in a short period in mid-April, with the young being born around September. There is careful timing so that it ensures the young are weaned from their mothers right when the food sources become most plentiful. They sometimes will give birth to twins, but a single infant is most common. The baby will cling to the underside of mom at first, and after a few weeks it will move and ride on their mother’s back more and begin to explore the environment. It reaches sexual maturity around two and a half to three years of age, giving birth once per year.
In the wild the ring-tailed lemur is expected to live fifteen to twenty years and between twenty and thirty in a zoo setting.
These are found in southern and southwestern Madagascar with a small population in the southeastern plateau of the Andringitra Mountains.
The ring-tailed lemur is found in a broader range of habitats than any other lemur species and can handle a variety of environments. They are most often found in the rainforests, especially thick areas near water.
This species of lemurs is known to eat over fifty different plant species. They typically eat a lot of fruit, leaves, flowers, bark and sap. They have been known to sometimes eat larger insects and small vertebrates, such as chameleons. They get a lot of their water from the dew or rainwater and rarely come to the ground to drink water. They will also eat soil to also increase their sodium intake.