Pierre Sonnerat, a French naturalist, was the first to describe it possibly after hearing local people call it by names sounding like ‘indry’. There were perhaps trying to show him the animal by saying “there it is” in their local dialect, which Sonnerat perhaps mistook for the lemur’s name. However, there is no evidence of this story behind the origination of its name.
Length: 2.10–2.36 ft (64–72 cm) from head to body
Weight: 14.33 pounds (6.5 kg)
Body and Coloration: These big-sized lemurs have a sturdy body, long muzzle, tufted ears, slender legs, and short arms. Their large hands and feet, alongside opposable thumbs and toes, contribute towards their agility. They even have a short tail, not measuring more than 5-6 cm.
Their body appears black, with patches of white on the crown, neck, lower back, and limbs. The black fuzzy ears and large green eyes give them the appearance of a teddy bear. Its face is covered with pale black skin and fringes of white fur.
The indri inhabits northeastern Madagascar, occupying the Réserve Spéciale d’Anjanaharibe-Sud in the north to Mangoro River in the south.
They live in lowland and montane rainforests.
They live between 15 and 18 years in their wild habitat. When kept in captivity, no Indri has been able to survive for over a year. Researchers have mentioned that they have diverse dietary requirements hard to meet in the captive environment.
Indri are herbivores, eating flowers, leaves, seeds, and fruits. Females have a greater preference for immature leaves than their male counterparts.
They are primarily diurnal and schedule most of their activities according to available daylight.
These lemurs are arboreal, spending most of their time on the trees. Upon descending on the ground, they mostly jump around and hold their hands right above their head.
Similar to most other lemurs, the indri exhibits a female hierarchy. The troop is lead by a dominant female who leads the pack during migration, perches higher on trees, and has the first choice when it comes to food.
To show its dominance, the female goes to the extent of sending the male lemurs to the lower branches, giving them inferior feeding options.
They travel about 300- 700 m away from their range daily in search of food.
These lemurs sleep in trees at a height of about 10-30m above ground level, either independently or in pairs.
Female indri, mostly the young ones but sometimes adults too, love to play wrestle that could last from a few seconds to about 15 minutes.
Indri use visual signals for communication that include facial expressions and body posture. They also urinate to mark an area designated for a particular troop.
The indri have a unique singing ability, and just before starting to sing, they perch on top of the tree, thus audible from a distance of about 4km. The group sings about seven times a day, their peak hours being from 7 to 11. They even grunt, wheeze, hum, hoot, and roar.
Most of their activities are related to feeding.
The main predators of the indri are the fossa and some large birds of prey.
They have long and muscular legs, allowing them to move quickly between trees.
Their muzzle has gland secretions that they use to communicate and mark territory.
Mating and Reproduction
An indri female gives birth every two to three years, the gestation period lasting for around 120-150 days. The mother takes care of the young. Still, the father stays throughout the entire weaning stage to help her.
Juveniles are entirely black initially, and some even develop white patches on their body at around 4-6 months of age. The young cling to the mother’s belly till they are 4-5 months old, after which they climb on her back. They start to become independent at 8 months but ultimately get on their own until they are 2. Sexual maturity is reached at 7.
The IUCN lists the indri as “CR” or “Critically Endangered.” Though estimates put the population at 10,000, it is likely that their numbers might decline drastically within the next three generations.
Reasons include loss of habitat and deforestation caused by cutting trees for fuel and agriculture, which may even occur in protected areas.
The people of Madagascar highly revered the indri, considering it pious, and never thought of harming the animal or hunting it.
It was regarded as the ancestor of man, and that is how it got its other name, “babakoto”, translating to ‘father of little boy’. In fact, the indri was said to be instrumental in saving a little boy’s life by helping him descend a tree when the latter was caught in a trap.