Mongoose Lemur

Mongoose Lemur
Mongoose Lemur

Description and biology

Lemurs are mammals with monkey–like bodies and limbs. They are found only on Madagascar (large island lying in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of the African country of Mozambique) and adjacent islands.

The mongoose lemur is one of only two lemur species found on both Madagascar and Comoros (group of islands between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar). It is covered with long, soft fur and has a ruff (projecting growth of fur) around its neck and ears.

The upper bodies of male mongoose lemurs are gray in color. The mongoose lemur has a pale face with bushy, reddish brown cheeks. The upper bodies of females are gray-brown. They have a dark face with bushy, white cheeks. Both sexes are white underneath.

An average mongoose lemur has a head and body length of 12 to 17 inches (30 to 43 centimeters) and weighs 4.5 to 6.6 pounds (2 to 3 kilograms). The tail of the mongoose lemur is longer than its body, extending 16 to 25 inches (40 to 64 centimeters).

Mongoose lemurs are active either at night or during the day, depending on the season and area. Their diet is mainly composed of flowers, fruit, and leaves. Family groups are made up of a male, a female, and their infants. Female mongoose lemurs normally give birth to one infant in mid–October after a gestation (pregnancy) period of 128 to 135 days.

Habitat and current distribution

The mongoose lemur inhabits dry deciduous (shedding plants and trees) forests on northwestern Madagascar and humid forests on the Comoros islands of Anjouan and Mohéli. The lemurs on the Comoros are probably descendants of lemurs brought to the islands by fishermen from Madagascar.

History and conservation measures

Biologists (people who study living organisms) believe the number of mongoose lemurs in existence is declining. In Madagascar, the animals are found only in the protected area of Ankarafantsika.

The reserve, however, is not well managed to provide protection for the wildlife it harbors. Nearby residents are continually clearing forested land around (and even within) the reserve to obtain lumber and to create agricultural land for livestock and crops.

On the islands of the Comoros, laws have been passed to protect the mongoose lemurs, but little has been done to enforce them. An increase in the number of cyclones (violent windstorms) that have hit the islands recently has also taken its toll on the animals.