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Awesome Facts About Ring-tailed Lemurs

Sonia Nair
As the name rightly suggests, ring-tailed lemurs are characterized by black and white rings on their tails. Here are some interesting facts about this animal, which is native to the island of Madagascar.
Remember 'King Julien' in the movie 'Madagascar'? This character is caricatured as a fun-loving ring-tailed lemur that belongs to the island of Madagascar. Actually, lemurs are primates, like monkeys; but, they got separated from the latter, when the island of Madagascar drifted away from the African continent, millions of years ago. 
In fact, almost all lemurs are endemic to the island of Madagascar. As of now, these animals are classified into five families with around 100 species. The ring-tailed lemur is the only species of the genus Lemur  in the family Lemuridae.
As mentioned before, these lemurs sport black and white rings on their tail, and hence, the name. The name lemur is derived from a Latin word that means ghosts or spirits, as these animals are nocturnal in nature. However, ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) are found to be diurnal. 
Even though these lemurs are arboreal, they spend some time (around 33%) on ground. In fact, they are said to be the most terrestrial lemur species. However, they are listed as endangered species that are now protected. The main reasons for their dwindling population is habitat destruction and hunting by humans.
Ring-tailed lemurs are hunted mainly for their meat. They are also sold as exotic pets. These lemurs are highly popular for their cute looks and social nature.

Physical Features

Among the different species of lemurs, the ring-tailed ones are relatively larger in size with a body length that ranges between 40 to 50 centimeters.
Compared to their body length, their tails are longer. An average ring-tailed lemur has a tail length of 56 to 65 centimeters. The furry tail sports alternate black and white rings and a black tip. In general, the number of black rings (14 to 15) are slightly higher than that of the white rings (12 to 13).
The body of this animal with a black skin is covered with fur that is grayish in color. Some of these lemurs may have rosy brown fur. Ring-tailed lemurs have patches of white fur on their chest, underbelly, face, ears, and throat.
Ring-tailed Lemur have a pointed face with a fox-like, black snout. Even the amber-colored eyes are covered with black skin that resembles a mask.
Ring-tailed Lemurs have a specialized comb-like teeth set, on the front portion of the lower jaw. This tooth comb is used for oral grooming.
As stated above, these animals have black skin that is covered with fur all over the body except the palms, heels, eyelids, lips, nose, and the areas around the genitalia.
The skin on the heels and palms, is rough and leathery, and is adapted to the arboreal nature of these animals. Even the fingers and toes of this animal is adapted for arboreal life.

Habitat and Diet

So, ring-tailed lemurs are native to Madagascar island. They are found in the highland areas, especially, in the deciduous forests of southwestern Madagascar. Their habitat includes regions with lots of trees. It has been observed that these lemurs prefer trees with horizontal branches.
They are omnivorous in nature, but these lemurs primarily feed on fruits, flowers, bark, leaves, herbs, and sap. They are fond of the leaves and pods of the tamarind tree.
Their diet includes insects, like spiders, grasshoppers, and caterpillars; small birds, lizards, and chameleons. They also feed on decayed wood and cocoons of insects. Ring-tailed lemurs are found to consume food twice a day once in the morning, and once in the evening.
These animals quench their thirst with water from fruits, sap of plants, dew drops, and rain. If there is no source of water, they travel to the nearby stream or river.


Ring-tailed lemurs are social animals that are found in groups with five to 30 members. Even though both males and females are found in such groups, each of them will be presided by a dominant female member. While females remain in the group in which they are born, males are found to change groups, once they reach sexual maturity. Females of each group bond well, and such bonding is cemented with grooming one another.
Every morning, the group members participate in sunbathing. They sit in open areas with their arms and legs spread towards their sides, and the bellies open to the sun. This pose with folded legs and half-closed eyes resembles a meditation posture. Ring-tailed lemurs communicate with barks, howls, purr, and screams.
Some of these sounds resemble those made by dogs and cats. Their lifespan in the wild, can be around 16 to 20 years, but in captivity, they may live up to 25 years. Their gestation period is 135 days, and at a time, a single offspring is born to a female.
However, twins are also not uncommon. The young ones are taken care of by the mother, who carries the baby on her chest.
In short, ring-tailed lemurs are amazing animals with interesting features. However, they are said to have a lesser degree of intelligence, as compared to other primates. This does not affect the popularity of these animals as pets.