One of Madagascar’s most famous attractions is not a palm tree fringed beach or a towering mountain or even a historical landmark, but actually, it’s an animal – the lemur! Lemurs have long held an allure for travellers around the world because of their uniqueness and rarity, the mammals are only found in Madagascar. The sheer variety of their species is fascinating as well, from tiny 6 cm Pygmy Mouse lemurs to larger, almost small child-sized Indri lemurs, and lemurs with long middle fingers and lemurs that sing, these creatures are like nothing else on earth. We’ve made a list of some fascinating facts about these prosimian primates.
- Lemurs exist in the wild only in Madagascar. They are endemic to the island nation and scientists surmise that they floated over on driftwood and other clumps of vegetation after the land split off from the continent of Africa. They no longer call continental Africa home as they weren’t able to compete with monkeys and apes, but thrived in Madagascar.
- In Latin, the word lemur translates to “spirit of the night”. However, not all lemurs are nocturnal and quite a few can also be observed in the day. Sadly, Aye-Aye lemurs have the unfortunate distinction of being associated with evil spirits in Madagascar and are trapped and killed in some areas, this may be because of their unattractive demon-like appearance.
- Lemurs live in troops and are very social. These social groups are matriarchal which is incredibly rare among primates and even mammals. Females are dominant and get the first pick of food as well as being the first to fight when they perceive a threat, they’ve also been observed to snatch food away from a male or shove them out of a comfortable sleeping space to claim it. They really rule the roost!
- Lemurs have many ways to communicate, from shrieking to singing and even using special scent glands. The shrill high screams are usually a form of warning family members that there is danger or letting another lemur know that it is encroaching on their territory. The large Indri lemurs are the only ones that sing and they do so to advertise the size (and power) of their group, they tend to sing in chorus with some of the younger males signing to a different beat. Lemurs use their scent glands to mark their territory, either to warn other lemurs or to let family members know that they are close by. Male Ring-tailed lemurs get into somewhat hilarious “stink fights” where they rub their tails with their scent glands and then wave it aggressively at their opponents.
- There are over a 100 different lemur species in Madagascar so anyone fascinated by these amazing creatures is absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to observing them, some are only found in certain areas which means if you want to “catch them all” you’ll need to travel throughout the breathtakingly diverse country.
Unfortunately, lemurs are the most endangered of all mammals and some species have already gone extinct, such as the massive human-sized Megaladapis lemur also known as the Koala lemur. However as their value as a tourist attraction increases so does the safety of their habitat, so go ahead an book your trip to Madagascar today!