Animal Diaries Archive
Primates are currently off display
28 December 2007
Welcome back to the next chapter of Australia Zoo's Primate animal diaries. The zoo is currently lucky enough to house six of the ever fascinating and entertaining Ringtail Lemurs. Vatobe, Betafo, Mandabe, Julien, Zafy, and Ethan form our troupe of male lemurs that we eventually hope to place on our own man-made Madagascar Island.
Over the years, the Ringtail Lemur has become the most widely studied of all species of lemur, and is also the most well known. Who could forget King Julien and his sidekick Maurice with their fluffy black and white tails, and crazy antics? But being well known does not necessarily mean they are a common animal. Unfortunately, ringtails are classified as vulnerable, meaning they face a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future. This is mostly due to habitat loss caused by fires, clearing of forests for agriculture and charcoal production, and they are sometimes hunted and kept as pets. Luckily, the ringtails tend to breed quite well in captivity, making it easier for zoos to help combat the decline of numbers in the wild.
As you can see in the image, Ringtail Lemurs have a greyish coloured back and limbs, with a white underside and very distinctive black and white striped tail. They generally weigh between 2.3 and 3.5kg and are about 110cm in length from nose to tail tip. Their lifespan varies depending on whether they are wild or captive, though they usually live to around 19 years of age. Ringtails occupy spiny, scrub, deciduous and gallery forests of south and south-western Madagascar, feeding on fruit, leaves, flowers, bark, sap, insects and sometimes small vertebrates.
They are very sociable animals, living in groups led by a dominant female, with group sizes ranging anywhere from 3 to 25 animals. Their breeding season is from May to July. The female's gestation period is 135 days long, and either twins, or more commonly, a single baby is born. The infant then spends a lot of time with their mother, until being weaned at 5-6 months of age. Another very distinctive feature of these lemurs is the spurs and scent glands on their wrists, which the males use to mark territory (by cutting the spurs through tree bark etc), and also to rub on their tails which they then flick at each other during a "stink fight", which is another way of marking their territory or claiming the right to breed, and is a very entertaining behaviour to witness!
Well, I could go on forever telling you more and more about the amazing world of the Ringtail Lemur, but it's time for me to "move it move it" out of here! See you next time for another Primate animal diary!