- A-Z Animals
The ring-tailed lemur, easily recognizable from its black and white striped tail, is an icon of Madagascar. Referred to as “maky” in the local language, it is also called “catta” in Latin after its cat-like appearance. Though famed worldwide due to its attractive look, it has faced a massive population decline, about 95% since 2000.
Height: 37-43 inches (95-100 cm), including tail length
Weight: 4.9 lb (2.2 kg)
Face and eyes: Like all strepsirrhine primates, they have a protruding muzzle and a wet nose.
Tail: Their striped tail appears long and bushy.
Body: It is larger than most lemurs, almost of the size of a house cat, with a furry body and tufted ears.
Coloration: They have gray to rosy brown backs with white bellies. Their tails consist of alternating white (12-13) and black (13-14) rings, ending in a black tip. These lemurs also have a white face, back nose, and triangular eye patches. When it comes to eye coloration, it is yellow in adults and blue in juveniles.
The ring-tailed lemur is found only in southern and southwestern Madagascar.
The protected regions include five national parks in their home country, several nature reserves, and some unprotected forest areas.
Females stay with their original groups, while males migrate after reaching sexual maturity.
The troop moves to a new location every 3-4 days, not traveling too far, at most 0.62 mi at a time from their original place.
It inhabits deciduous and gallery (lying near riverbanks) forests.
The ring-tailed lemur lives for about 18 years.
Being omnivores, these lemurs feed on flowers, leaves, fruits, and insects.
Female dominance is the hierarchical structure of ring-tailed lemur troops, a notable exception among primates. They rank high in the troops and have the first choice of mates. The reasons are still being explored through certain studies. The current thoughts are that it may have something to do with scarce food and small mating periods. Still, so far, no concrete evidence has materialized.
It must be wary of natural predators such as the fossa, the Madagascar harrier-hawk, the Madagascar buzzard, and the Madagascar ground boa, well as introduced predators like the Indian civet and domestic dogs and cats.
During mating season, males use their scents to overcome potential rivals. They combine this with their long tails to determine who will mate. The mating period is minimal, as most females are estrous for only a day, and the whole season lasts two weeks.
They reach mating age between 3-4 years old.
The gestation period of the females is 130 days. The group raises the young, and around three weeks of age, they begin to feed. They reach sexual maturity at 18 months.
The IUCN labels them as ‘EN’ or ‘Endangered’ since 2014. Despite the conservation efforts to control their population, their numbers have drastically dipped in the wild as per 2017 records, mainly due to poaching, habitat loss, and illegal pet trade.
Zoos have been critical in conserving the population and increasing awareness among people regarding the ring-tailed lemur’s plight. These efforts did bear fruit, raising their numbers in captivity to about 2800.