Lemurs of Madagascar

If you have heard anything at all about Madagascar , you have heard about lemurs. « We admire the world through what we love » said Lamartine. And it's true. All people, all tourists who have seen lemurs in their nature environment in Madagascar have had an amazing look of them. Unfortunately they are threatened by a host of environmental problems, including deforestation ( creation of pasture for cattle through burning, gathering of wood for firewood and charcoal production, and the illegal logging of precious hardwoods for foreign markets = 2009, 2010 ), hunting for bushmeat, live capture for the exotic pet trade and climate change.




The Mascot of the 3rd Indian Ocean Islands Games - 1990 - Madagascar. The Ringtailed Lemur - Drawing of Mrs Rakotondrazaka Vololomanantsoa

We admire the world
through what we love
( Lamartine )

Lemur who is an order of primate and who is an endangered species is endemic to the island of Madagascar,

And they are a class of mammalia. Today there are nearly 100 species of lemurs currently recognised ( most of those species were discovered or promoted to full species status since the 1990s ).

More than 15 species have disappeared because of the destruction of their environment : the forest. They have disappeared about 1500 years ago, date when the first men came in Madagascar ( the original country of all lemurs ). Examples : the biggest lemur that ever lived : the Archaeoindris ( from 160 to ... 200 Kg ), the Babakotia & the Megaladapis ( from 40 to 80 Kg ).

Living lemurs range in size from 30 g ( the mouse lemur, the smallest ) to 9 kg ( the Indri Indri teddy-like lemur, the biggest ). Lemurs are generally the most social of primates. Lemurs communicate more with scents and vocalizations than with visual signals.



Lemurs are vegetarian, Lemurs eat in general fruits and leaves,

Most lemur species excluding some of the indris, predominantly eat fruit ( frugivory ) when available. The lemur diet is dominated by fruit from Ficus ( fig ) species. In many anthropoid primates, fruit is a primary source of vitamin C.

Inflorescences ( clusters of flowers ) of at least 60 plant families are eaten by lemurs ranging in size from the tiny mouse lemurs to the relatively large ruffed lemurs. If the flowers are not exploited, sometimes the nectar is consumed ( nectarivory ) along with the pollen ( palynivory ).

Bark and plant exudates such as tree sap are consumed by a few lemur species. Only the Masoala Fork-marked Lemur ( Phaner furcifer ) and Coquerel's Giant Mouse Lemur regularly consume tree sap. Bark has never been reported as an important food item in lemur diets, but at least four species eat it : the Aye-aye, the Red-tailed Sportive Lemur ( Lepilemur ruficaudatus ), the Common Brown Lemur ( Eulemur fulvus ), and Verreaux's Sifaka ( Propithecus verreauxi ).

Soil consumption has also been reported and likely helps with digestion, provides minerals and salts, and helps absorb toxins. Sifakas have been observed eating soil from termite mounds, possibly adding beneficial intestinal flora to aid the digestion of cellulose from their folivorous diet.



Lemur behavior, lemur social systems are as variable as lemur morphology,

Differences in diet, social systems, activity patterns, locomotion, communication, predator avoidance tactics, breeding systems, and intelligence levels help define lemur taxa and set individual species apart from the rest. Although trends frequently distinguish the smaller, nocturnal lemurs from the larger, diurnal lemurs.

Some lemurs are nocturnal, others are diurnal & others are crepuscular. Some lemurs live in tropical lowland rainforest, others live in montane rainforest ( up to 800 m of altitude ) & others live in deciduous forest or in the South spiny bushes.

All lemurs spend most of their time in the trees except the Ringtailed lemur ( Lemur catta ) which spend most of its time on the ground. The females of lemurs carry their babies with them. Lemurs use their voices, their leggs & their smells to communicate between them. Some of them use their 4 leggs for locomotion but others use acrobatic leaps from tree to tree & use only their two hind leggs with a vertical position when they are on the ground.

Lemurs are social and live in groups that usually include less than 15 individuals. Observed social organization patterns include " solitary but social ", " fission-fusion ", " pair bonds ", and " multi-male group ". For some lemurs, females stay within their natal range and the males migrate upon reaching maturity, and in other species both sexes will migrate.

Like other primates, lemurs groom socially to ease tensions and solidify relationships. They groom in greeting, when waking up, when settling in for sleep, between mother and infant, in juvenile relations, and for sexual advances. Lemurs groom with their tongue.

The presence of female social dominance sets lemurs apart from most other primates and mammals. However, many Eulemur species are exceptions and the Greater Bamboo Lemur ( Prolemur simus ) does not exhibit female dominance.



Lemur's wildlife predator avoidance

All lemurs experience some predation pressure. Common defenses against predation include the use of alarm calls and predator mobbing, mostly among diurnal lemurs. Diurnal lemurs are visible during the day, so many live in groups, where the increased number of eyes and ears helps aid in predator detection. Diurnal lemurs use and respond to alarm calls, even those of other lemur species and non-predatory birds.

Nocturnal lemurs are difficult to see and track at night and decrease their visibility by foraging alone. They also try to avoid predators by using concealing sleeping locations, such as nests, tree holes, or dense vegetation, and alternating between multiple sleeping locations. Infants are protected while foraging by either leaving them in the nest or by stashing them in a hidden location, where the infant remains immobile in the absence of the parent.

The Fosa ( the biggest of Malagasy carnivorous = Cryptoprocta ferox ) and the Madagascar Harrier-hawk ( Polyboroides radiatus ) are predators of many lemur species. Other predators are the Madagascar Buzzard ( Buteo brachypterus ), diurnal birds of prey, owls, feral cats, domestic dogs, snakes, crocodiles, and ... human beings.

The Ringtailed lemur - the Indri - the Brown lemur - the Black & White ruffed lemur
Maky - Babakoto - Gidro - Varika





There are 5 families of lemurs :

I- The Cheirogalidae lemurs
( The dwarf lemurs, the fork-marked lemur & the mouse lemurs )

They are quiet, discreet & difficult to observe. These lemurs are small or very small & they are exclusively nocturnal. The day, they sleep in trees holes and cavities. These lemurs eat in general insects and fruits.

In Sportive lemurs and Fork-marked lemurs, one or two females may share a home range, possibly with a male. Dwarf lemurs are solitary but social, foraging alone but often sleeping in groups. Dwarf lemurs are known to hibernate for five months and more every year ( May through September ) particularly on the west coast of Madagascar. Before and after this deep hibernation, there are two months ( April and October ) of transition, where they will forage on a limited basis to reduce demands on their fat reserves.

1- Cheirogaleus medius
2- Cheirogaleus major
3- Allocebus trichotis
4- Mirza coquereli
5- Phaner furcifer
6- Microcebus myoxinus
7- Microcebus murinus
8- Microcebus rufus
Fat-tailed dwarf lemur
Greater dwarf lemur
Hairy-eared dwarf lemur
Coquerel's dwarf lemur
Masoala Fork-marked lemur
Pygmy mouse lemur
Grey mouse lemur
Rufous mouse lemur
Petit cheirogale
Grand cheirogale
Microcèbe de Coquerel
Microcèbe pygmé
Petit microcèbe
Microcèbe roux





II- The Lepilemuridae ( the Lepilemurs ) or Megaladapidae lemurs :

They are too nocturnal & they live in the trees like the Cheirogalidae, precisely in trees holes & cavities ( for example in Didieraceae forest - in the South part of Madagascar such as Andohahela National Park ). These lemurs eat leaves, flowers, fruits & barks.

09- Lepilemur mustelinus
10- Lepilemur microdon
11- Lepilemur septentrionalis
12- Lepilemur ruficaudatus
13- Lepilemur dorsalis
14- Lepilemur edwarsi
15- Lepilemur leucopus

Weasel lepilemur
Small-toothed weasel lepilemur
Northern weasel lepilemur
Red-tailed weasel lepilemur
Gray-backed weasel lepilemur
Milne Edward's weasel lepilemur
White-footed weasel lepilemur

Lépilemur aux petites dents
Lépilémur du Nord
Lépilemur à queue rousse
Lépilemur à dos gris
Lépilemur de Milne Edward
Lépilemur à patte blanche





III- The Daubentonidae ( the Aye-Aye lemurs ) :

This family is too exclusively nocturnal. It's the most archaic of lemur

16- Daubentonia madagascariensis
Aye aye





IV- The Indriidae
( The Indri lemurs , the woolly lemurs and the sifaka lemurs ) :

These are those which use only their 2 hind leggs with a vertical position when they are on the ground & they do acrobatic leaps from tree to tree. These lemurs are diurnal except the woolly lemur ; they eat leaves & fruits.

Many of the larger lemur species consume leaves ( folivory ), particularly among the indris. However, smaller lemurs such as sportive lemurs ( genus Lepilemur ) and woolly lemurs ( genus Avahi ) primarily eat leaves, making them the smallest primates that do so.

Collectively, lemurs have been documented consuming leaves from at least 82 native plant families and 15 alien plant families. Lemurs tend to be selective in their consumption of the part of the leaf or shoot as well as its age. Often, young leaves are preferred over mature leaves.

17- Indri indri
18- Avahi laniger
19- Avahi occidentalis
20- Propithecus tattersalli
21- Propithecus verreauxi
22- Propithecus diadema
Black & white teddy-like lemur
Eastern woolly lemur
Western woolly lemur
Golden crowned sifaka
Verreaux's sifaka
Diademed sifaka
Avahi laimeux oriental
Avahi laineux occidental
Propithèque de Tattersall
Propithèque de Verreaux
Propithèque à diadème





V- The Lemuridae ( the Lemurs and the bamboo lemurs ) :

They eat leaves & fruits & they are diurnal. These lemurs spend their time in the trees. The most known are : the Lemur fulvus ( Brown lemur or Rufous lemur - With all its sub species such as the Lemur fulvus fulvus, the Lemur fulvus rufus & the Lemur fulvus albifrons ), the Varecia variegata ( Black & white ruffed lemur - in the East coast of Madagascar ) and the Lemur catta ( Ringtailed lemur ).

Lemurs that do not exhibit dormancy conserve energy by selecting thermoregulated microhabitats ( such as tree holes ), sharing nests, and reducing exposed body surfaces. Also, the Ring-tailed Lemur and ruffed lemurs are commonly seen sunning, thus using solar radiation to warm their bodies instead of metabolic heat.

Ruffed lemurs have been shown to live in " fission-fusion " societies. Lemur calls can be very loud and carry long distances. Ruffed lemurs use several loud calls that can be heard up to 1 km away.

Olfaction is particularly important to lemurs. Olfaction can communicate information about age, sex, reproductive status, as well as demarcate the boundaries of a territory. Larger, diurnal lemur species use for this olfaction scent glands located on various parts of their anatomy.

23- Eulemur mongoz
24- Eulemur macaco

25- Eulemur fulvus

26- Eulemur rubriventer
27- Eulemur coronatus
28- Varecia variegata
29- Varecia variegata rubra
30- Lemur catta
31- Hapalemur griseus
32- Hapalemur simus
33- Hapalemur aureus
Mongoose lemur
Black lemur
Brown lemur
Red-bellied lemur
Crowned lemur
Black & white ruffed lemur
Red ruffed lemur
Ringtailed lemur
Lesser bamboo lemur
Greater bamboo lemur
Golden bamboo lemur
Lémur mongoz
Lémur macaco
Lémur brun
Lémur à ventre rouge
Lémur couronné
Lémur vari
Vari roux
Petit hapalémur
Grand hapalémur
Hapalémur doré


Black and White Ruffed Lemur at Andasibe
Robert Morgan's picture - June 2003






How did Lemurs evolved ? The supercontinent Gondwana

Once part of the supercontinent Gondwana, the island of Madagascar has been isolated since it broke away from eastern Africa ( ~160 mya ), Antarctica ( ~80–130 mya ), and India ( ~90 mya ). Ancestral lemurs are thought to have originated in Africa approximately 62 to 65 mya, they would have had to have crossed the Mozambique Channel.

In 1915, paleontologist William Diller Matthew noted that the mammalian biodiversity on Madagascar ( including lemurs ) can only be accounted for by random rafting events, where very small populations rafted from nearby Africa on tangled mats of vegetation, which get flushed out to sea from major rivers. In the 1940s, American paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson coined the term " sweepstakes hypothesis " for such random events. Rafting has since been the most accepted explanation for the lemur colonization of Madagascar.

Isolated on Madagascar with only a limited number of mammalian competitors, the lemurs did not have to compete with other evolving arboreal mammalian groups. They were spared from having to compete with monkeys, which evolved later. The intelligence, aggression, and deceptiveness of monkeys gave them an advantage over other primates in exploiting the environment.

From approximately 1500 years ago until now - The subfossil lemurs

Before the arrival of humans roughly 1500 years ago, lemurs were found all across the island. However, early settlers quickly converted the forests to rice paddies and grassland through slash-and-burn agriculture ( known locally as " tavy " ), restricting lemurs to approximately 10 % of the island's area.

Habitat destruction and hunting have forced lemur populations to decline sharply, and their diversity has diminished, with the recent extinction of at least 17 species in eight genera, known collectively as the subfossil lemurs ( the Archaeoindris , the Babakotia & the Megaladapis ). Most of the approximately 99 species and subspecies of lemur are either threatened or endangered. Unless trends change, extinctions are likely to continue.






Let's take an example :
The " Maky " = the Ringtailed lemur

The roughly 100 species of lemurs have their own habits. For example : some lemurs eat fruits & others eat insects.

The Ringtailed lemur is exclusively vegetarian

Some lemurs have 2 or 3 babies per year, others have only one per year. The mouse lemur never carries its baby on its back such as most of lemurs, but always with its teeth during 3 years. The Ringtailed lemur is always next to its baby. It has only one baby per year after 4 months and half of gestation. It carries its baby like a belt on its belly. The baby begins to search its food itself at one month. At this time, it begins too to climb a tree. But its mother continues to breastfeed it & to carry it on its back. The baby continues to be carried at the back of its mother until 6 months old. It becomes an adult at one year & half old. The Ringtailed lemur has its first sexual intercourse when it has 3 years old.

The Ringtailed lemur behavior and communication are very complicated,

They live in a group of 2 to 25 and search their food together ( fruits, flowers, leaves, barks ). The territory of one group is about 6 ha and they use strong smell to defend their own area. Females are the boss in a group. Babies are born in august & september. The Ringtailed lemur can live until 12 years old. Their enemies are falcons ( Madagascar Harrier Hawks ), dogs, cats & the biggest carnivorous in Madagascar ( the Fosa = the Cryptoprocta ferox ).

Compared to other mammals, primates in general are very vocal, and lemurs are no exception. Some lemur species have extensive vocal repertoires, including the Ring-tailed Lemur and Ruffed lemurs. Some of the most common calls among lemurs are predator alarm calls. Lemurs will not only respond to alarm calls of their own species, but also alarm calls of other species and those of non-predatory birds. The Ring-tailed Lemur and a few other species have different calls and reactions to specific types of predators.

In general, levels of aggression tend to correlate with relative canine height. The Ring-tailed Lemur has long, sharp upper canine teeth in both sexes, so it exhibits high levels of aggression.


Just you look a thing with attention, it becomes interesting
( Ors )


Just you know & you understand the nature, you will want protect it
( Béatrice Le Métayer )


To discover wildlife in Madagascar,
its lemurs :

Madagascar, island of emotions, is a very special world. As an island, it could keep its traditions, its manners, its fauna and flora which have a highly endemic character.

Madagascar has become very attractive for people in search of discovery, emotion and trekkings.

As a professional - since 1993 - in organizing and realizing trips in Madagascar, I make the following proposal to you. A proposal where you discover the National Parks of the Great Island through its wonders. A special Trekking proposal.

A trip to Madagascar proves to be an authentic and natural experience for one who is able to do it in a sensible and intelligent way. Shall we see each other soon ? Thank you for your trust.

Day 1 : Paris – Tana – Pangalans
Arrival in Tana. Reception at the airport and foreign exchange operation. Direction East of Madagascar in order to discover the region and the lush vegetation of the Canal of the North Pangalans. Along the road, you will visit a private reserve ( crocodiles, butterflies, insects and you will see a great variety of chameleons of all sizes and colours ; it is the place in Madagascar where you can best observe the largest number of different species ). Cruise on the Pangalans Canal in the late afternoon ( with a small vedette motorboat ).

Day 2 : Pangalans
Trekking to visit a lemur reserve ( many species in the wild ; here, you will have an opportunity to see the largest species in the world, the Indri-Indri ). Splendid views and visit of a typical village in the East coast of Madagascar. Also discovery of the carnivorous Nepenthes plants.

Day 3 : Pangalans – Tana
Return by boat via Manambato along the Pangalans through lakes, rivers and lagunas with traps for fish ; you will occasionally see local canoes, rafts and bush-taxi boats.

Day 4 : Tana –Ambositra
Direction South of Madagascar so as to discover this region and its varied landscapes ( its red laterite houses, its innumerable terraced ricefields etc. ). Visit of workshops and stores of miniature bikes and rickshaws, of embroidery and precious and semi-precious stones along the road.

Day 5 : Ambositra
Trekking with early departure so as to discover the Zafimaniry region ( Antoetra and Ifasina ). Two very typical villages that are located far from the beaten track. You will feel completely removed from your usual surroundings in this landscapes full of valleys, hills and mountains. Zafimaniry art, due to its beauty, has been classified as World Heritage of UNESCO since 2003.

Day 6 : Ambositra – Ranomafana
Continuation on South-Eastern Madagascar through secondary and primary forests, with waterfalls and panoramic views along the road. Possibility of massage and bathing in a thermal spa in the late afternoon.

Day 7 : Ranomafana
Trekking to visit Ranomafana National Park ( to see other lemurs ) through a humid and dense tropical forest, through rivers and cascades.

Day 8 : Ranomafana – Andringitra
Continuation on South Madagascar through big granite rocks and superb terraced ricefields, on the way you discover the wonderful Betsileo region.

Day 9 : Andringitra
Trekking to visit Andringitra National Park, a mountainous region of bare granite plateau with xerophite mosses – panoramic views and waterfalls.

Day 10 : Andringitra – Isalo
Continuation on South Madagascar through its vast deserted plateaux and its large herds of zebu cattle in transhumance.

Day 11 : Isalo
Trekking to visit the Isalo National Park, a moonlike landscape, sandstone carved through the ages, similar to the Grand Canyon in the USA. Bathing in natural pools and oases along the trek.

Day 12 : Isalo – Ifaty
Continuation on South Madagascar through semi-deserted landscapes of thorn bush, through villages and Mahafaly tombs, through saphire mining villages and through sand dunes and typical Vezo fishing villages on the South-West coast of the Great Island. Possibility of bathing in the afternoon, or discovery of the typical Baobab forest of Ifaty.

Day 13 : Ifaty – Toliara – Tana
Free morning with bathing ad lib in one of the lagoons of the Mozambique Canal. Transfer to the airport in the afternoon and flight to Tana.

Day 14 : Tana- Paris
Tour of the Malagasy capital with shopping in the crafts market and visit of the Botanic and Zoological Park where you can find an almost complete range of the fauna and flora of Madagascar, as well as of its ways and customs. Discovery of the upper and lower part of the city, as well as the monuments of the city prior to transfer for the return journey to Paris.

Approximate cost : 1915 euros per person ( based on 2 persons )
Approximate cost : 1370 euros per person ( based on 4 persons )
Approximate cost : 1255 euros per person ( based on 8 persons )


All included EXCEPT : your international flights, visa, insurance, your personal expenses, tips for porters, for waiters etc., and all sorts of drinks.

You will settle ALL, once you are on the spot, as we progress ( cash, in euros ).


Anti-mosquito spray and cream, pocket torch and spare batteries, head torch if possible, swimsuits, light clothes as well as clothes to keep you warm ( for the high grounds ), cameras, small padlocks for your luggage, your personal medicines ( current antibiotics, antidiarrhoea, antiseptics, Betadine, compresses and cotton, ointment for sprains, lip salve and other personal medicines, protect yourself against malaria, e.g. follow a treatment ) sun cream, walking shoes or closed sports shoes, binoculars if necessary, old clothes ( children’s and adults’ ) to give here and there during the trip ( also biros, colour pencils, old dolls, teddy-bears, small balloons, etc. ) swiss knife, k-way or windcheater, hat or cap, etc. AND cash money = euros.



Other information about Madagascar :

Climate :
Madagascar boasts a tropical climate with more than half a year days of sunshine. The rainy season tends to be between December and March with the drier winter months occuring between May and September. There is however a considerable variation of both temperature and rainfall depending on the altitude and latitude. It is therefore possible to experience temperatures ranging from 0° in the highlands to 40° C on the West Coast.

Health :
Precautions should be taken against Malaria. Cover yourself well with mosquito repellant from dusk onwards and burn coils at night. Drink only bottled water and execrcise basic common sense when selecting restaurants/eating out. Take along a First Aid Kit, as Tana is the only city with a hospital which meets western standards.

Travel insurance :
It is essential to take out comprehensive medical travel insurance for Madagascar.

Language :
The most common language is Malagasy of which there are several dialects. French is widely spoken on the island except in the remote country areas. Some English is spoken in the larger cities especially amongst people working in tourism industry.

Power :
Power supply : 220 volt / European 2 prong plugs.

Madagascar Travel Tips :
Madagascar has been relatively isolated from the outside world. Consequently it has not been exploited by the effects of mass tourism, thus remaining one of the world's great undeveloped and undiscovered eco-tourism adventure destinations. Madagascar's tourism infrastructure is modest and unsophisticated, this being one of its many charms. Modern facilities are often not available, so having an adventurous spirit, keeping an open mind, and being willing to exercise understanding and patience, will surely assure you of a wonderful experience during your visit to this spectacular island of amazing contrasts. No one who visits the island is left unaffected, either by the warmth and hospitality of the Malagasy people, or the sheer majesty of the island's wilderness.


For more information, you can write to the following people. They have alot of experiences about travel and big travel. I have had the opportunity to meet them, I was their tour guide during their trip in Madagascar. Thanks alot to them to permit me to put their names and adresses on this web site. Don't hesitate to contact them and thank you so much :

MM. Richard and Cathy Condon : richardcondon@clearwire.be
MM. Rene and Janine Weemaels : reneweemaels@hotmail.com
MM. Erik and Colette Segers :

This last person ( Erik Segers ) has written in « LinkedIn » :
If you want to discover Madagascar, Ravo is your man to organise your trip from A to Z. Thanks to his deep knowledge and boundless enthusiasm we had a truly first class visit of this wonderful island. Without a doubt, I do recommend, wholeheartedly.

Another person says, always in « LinkedIn » :
Ravo is an all-round tour guide and entirely devoted to his clients. Ravo will take care of everything, methodically and professionally. It’s with immense pleasure that I will ask him once more to guide me through his magnificent island, Madagascar ( Emmanuel Leborgne - Canada )






To see our Madagascar Pictures' Gallery
(more than 88 pictures), click on :





RATSIMBAZAFY Ravo Nomenjanahary & Pierrette
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e-mail : r_ravo@hotmail.com
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