Lemurs are primitive primates found only in Madagascar. The ancestor of all lemurs was probably carried to Madagascar on a raft of vegetation from mainland Africa around 62 to 65 million years ago. Since that time, lemurs have evolved into many different forms in order to take advantage of different habitats and ecological niches. Today there are nearly 100 species of lemur and, during our time in Madagascar, we photographed a variety of different species.
Lemurs living today can be split into five distinct families:
- Brown Lemurs & Allies – diurnal, stereotypical lemurs such as the ring-tailed lemurs.
- Sifakas, Indri & Wolly Lemurs – diurnal, the largest species of lemur belong to this family.
- Sportive Lemurs – nocturnal, during the day they can be found sleeping in tree hollows.
- Mouse Lemurs & Allies – nocturnal, this family includes the world’s smallest primates.
- Aye-ayes – nocturnal and very elusive.
Brown Lemurs & Allies
These are the stereotypical lemurs and include well-known species such as the ring-tailed lemur. Below are a couple of other species… three goofy-looking brown lemurs on a branch and a malevolent-looking black lemur on a palm frond.
Ring-tailed lemurs are the most ground-dwelling species of lemur. They are highly social and live in family groups consisting of up to 30 animals. In these groups the females are dominant, a trait they share with other lemur species.
August in Madagascar can be rather cold so at this time of year the lemurs need to warm up in the morning… each day, about an hour after sunrise, we would find groups of ring-tailed lemurs emerging from the forest and sunbathing in the open! They were very cute! Below you can see a typical sunbathing lemur; he is facing the sun with his arms outstretched, soaking up the rays!
Sifakas & Indris
This group contains the world’s largest living species of lemur, the Indri (first image below). Indris can weigh up to 9.5kg and can reach up to 1.2m with their legs extended. It is an impressive spectacle watching them leap up to 10m, high up in the tree tops. They have an incredibly loud high-pitched call, which reverberates through the rainforest early in the morning… it is a noise that reminded us of something out of Jurassic Park!
We photographed three species of Sifaka during our trip; Verreaux’s Sifaka (second image above) in the South of Madagascar, Golden Diademed Sifaka (first image below) in the cool highland rainforests of Andisibe-Mantadia and Coquerel’s Sifaka (second image below) in the Northwest. Sifakas are some of our favourite lemurs due to their gentle temperaments, fluffy soft fur and goofy demeanors!
Sifakas are perhaps best known for the way in which they traverse open ground; they stand upright and hop along, holding their arms up for balance. This is illustrated in the picture below (notice the tiny baby holding onto its mother for dear life)!
Sportive lemurs are medium-sized nocturnal lemurs. They are often found during the day, snoozing in trees. Whenever we came across them, they would stare down at us with a rather startled expression on their faces!
The first image below is a White-footed Sportive Lemur which we found wedged between two prickly euphorbia trunks in the Ifotaka Spiny Forest. He seems remarkably comfortable! We were often amazed at how the lemur’s soft hands allowed them to jump and climb all over some of the spiniest trees we’ve ever seen! The second image below is an Ankarana Sportive Lemur which we found by its hole in the dry deciduous forest of Ankarana National Park.
Mouse lemurs are strictly nocturnal. From head to tail they are less than 27cm long and weigh as little as 30g, making them the World’s smallest primates. They scamper hyperactively around the forest at night, which makes them a challenging photographic subject!
Mouse lemurs are omnivorous, but we generally observed them being veracious cockroach predators! Below is a Golden-brown Mouse Lemur, one of the smallest species, tucking into a big juicy Madagascar Hissing Cockroach!
The main omission from this post is the bizarre Aye-aye, a unique nocturnal lemur which we didn’t get to see. We’re already itching to return to Madagascar to photograph this and other unusual creatures that we missed. In the meantime, we have added over 200 pictures showing 80+ different animal species to our Madagascar Galleries. We also have a number of “behind the scenes” photographs from Madagascar on our Facebook page… to check them out, click here!