Some of the world’s most enigmatic and energetic creatures are calling the North Carolina Zoo home. Two species of lemurs, the ring-tailed (Lemur catta) and the red-ruffed (Varecia rubra) are on exhibit in the zoo’s African region.
The Lemur Island exhibit is complete with climbing trees and other amenities to make the lemurs feel right at home. Leaping is the lemurs’ thing, so the zoo staff is making certain they have plenty of places to display their amazing acrobatic abilities for the public.
Lemurs are the oldest primate species, evolving before monkeys, apes or humans. The ring-tail is omnivorous and the most terrestrial of the lemurs. It is also diurnal, meaning it is most active during daylight hours. Ring-tails are highly social, living in groups of up to 30 individuals. The species is also female dominant, a trait common among lemurs but uncommon among other primates. They can live as long as 27 years in captivity.
Red-ruffed lemurs are the largest members of the lemur family reaching 47 inches in length and weighing 7-10 pounds. Unlike their ring-tailed cousins, they spend most of their time in the trees. Red-ruffed lemurs are found in deciduous tropical forests of the Masoala Peninsula in northeastern Madagascar. They are red/brown with a black head, tail, stomach and feet. They have a mane, or "ruff," of fur around their neck and a white patch of fur at the back of their neck.
Red-ruffed lemurs are also most active during the day, with most activity being in the morning and evening. They can use at least 12 different vocalizations as a method of communication. They also communicate using scent marking. The red-ruffed mainly eat fruit, pollen, nectar, seeds, leaves and flowers.
Lemurs have only one home–the island of Madagascar.
They depend on the island’s forests for food and shelter, but most of these forests have been cut for fuel, building materials and to clear farmland. With no place left to go, the survival of lemurs depends on saving what little forest is left.
No Monkeys Allowed
Monkeys do not live on Madagascar, so lemurs have been the only primates on the island for millions of years. Lemurs were never successful on Africa’s mainland, where monkeys and apes won the struggle for resources.Without competition from other primates on Madagascar, lemurs occupy all the forests on the island.