Ring-Tailed Lemur

Lemur catta

Species Information

Meet Peach, Erica, Cath, Rachel, and Phoebe the ring-tailed lemurs! These curious and playful troop absolutely love to sunbathe in their iconic yoga position, bounce all over their enclosure, and feasting on the spoilt diet they are provided!

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Lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, an island off South-East Africa. This species are found in South-West Madagascar in forests and scrublands.

They get their name from their iconic black and white ring tailed, which is held upright as they walk and held aloft like a flag for other lemurs to see and to keep balance. They have 6 lower teeth which stick out their jaw like a comb, which they then use to comb and groom other lemurs to enhance social bonds. As they depend heavily on smell, they have a long, pointed nose. They also have scent glands on their genitalia, necks, and wrist, so they leave their signature scent wherever they go so they can remember good foraging routes. Lemurs are also able to control their metabolism, so when food is less available, they can survive by slowing their bodily functions.

Ringtails are primarily leaf eaters, but will also feast on fruits, flowers, insects and some smaller vertebrates.

15 – 25 years

Lemurs live in female-dominated social groups, called troops, of up to 30 lemurs. The alpha-female and more dominant other females will always have access to food first. Although there is a hierarchical structure, lemurs still look out for each other, barking different alarm sounds when different predators are present. After an often-chilly night, ring tails engage in a behaviour called sunning, where they expose their white belly to the sun to warm up. If this doesn’t warm them up, then groups huddle together to form a ‘lemur ball’. Although they are still nimble climbers, their tail is not prehensile like many other primates and thus it cannot grip. Therefore, they spend about 40% of the time on the floor but can evade potential predators by leaping far and back into the safety of the trees.

During mating season, males will encounter in ‘stink fights’. This is when they cover their long tails with smelly secretions and wave them in the air to determine which animal is more powerful. The female will then use this to decide which male to mate; this unusual primate behaviour occurs because the female is the more dominant gender in this species of lemur. There will then be a gestation of about 139 days before the female gives birth to 1 offspring, or twins if food is abundant.

They are classified at Endangered by the IUCN, primarily due to habitat loss and modification, hunting, and the pet trade. Find out more on this on the Education section of our website.

Their tail is 60cm in length, which is longer than their entire body!