Ring-tailed Lemur


Do you know a ring-tailed lemur, a unique monkey with a fox-like face and a long black and white tail?
The ring-tailed lemur is one of the very primitive lemurs, living only on the African island of Madagascar.
Ring-tailed lemurs are relatively easy to meet if you go to the zoo. However, on the other hand, in the wild, the number is actually declining and it is on the verge of extinction.
In this article, let’s take a peek at the characteristics and secrets of the ring-tailed lemur and its life together!

~ Basic information. ~



Ring-tailed lemurs are a species of very primitive monkey called “prosimians” that live in the forests of Madagascar Island.

It is an arboreal monkey that lives mainly on trees, but it also often moves on the ground and is known to spend the longest time on the ground among lemurs.

In the wild, it is a diurnal animal that is active in bright hours, and usually lives in groups of about 5~20 animals. It is said that females have a stronger status than males in the herd.


A distinctive feature of the ring-tailed lemur is its tail, which is also the origin of its name, with a black and white ring-like pattern.

The tail is born with this pattern, and as it grows, the number of rings does not increase or decrease. It also has excellent jumping power, and is said to be able to fly more than 3m without running.

Males of ring-tailed lemurs reach sexual maturity at 2 and a half years of age, and females reach sexual maturity about 1 year and 8 months after birth, and can reproduce. The gestation period is about 4~4 and a half months, and 1~2 babies are usually born in one birth.


Ring-tailed lemur’s Q&A.

What is the origin of the name of the ring-tailed lemur?

The animal is called “ring-tailed lemur” in English and “waokitsunezaru” in Japanese. Why is it called the waokitsunezaru in Japanese this time? We will introduce its origin.

In conclusion, it is said that the waokitsunezaru was named because of its characteristic white and black “wakka” striped tail.

By the way, “kitsunezaru”, as the name suggests, refers to a primitive monkey family with a face like “fox” in English or “kitsune” in Japanese.

※Monkeys are called “saru” in Japanese.

Lemurs are characterized by the absence of hair from the tip of their nose to their lips and the moist tip of their nose like dogs, and they live only on the island of Madagascar.


Why do ring-tailed lemurs live there?

The ring-tailed lemur is an endemic animal that lives only on the island of Madagascar, located 400km east of the east coast of the African continent.

The island of Madagascar was once part of a huge continent, but it was separated and became independent as an island about 88 million years ago.

And the animals that were left behind on the island at that time underwent their own evolution while retaining the characteristics of the old era. As a result, it is said that 70~80% of the animals currently inhabiting Madagascar Island are endemic species.

The fox lemur family, including ring-tailed lemurs, is a unique species that has evolved on Madagascar Island, and it is believed that there are as many as 107 species in this family.


What do ring-tailed lemurs eat?

Ring-tailed lemurs are omnivorous animals that feed on everything from fruits, flowers, leaves, cacti and insects.

In addition to fruits (apples, bananas, etc.) and vegetables (cabbage, komatsuna, sweet potato, carrot, etc.), zoos give green grass, tree leaves, and pellets for monkeys.


What role does the tail of the ring-tailed lemur play?

The long tail of a ring-tailed lemur is believed to be used as a means of communication among members of the same species.

Madagascar Island where ring-tailed lemurs live has many tall trees and grasses, so if they walk normally, they will be buried in them and will not know where they or their companions are. Therefore, ring-tailed lemurs raise their tails and move around to let their companions know that “I’m here.”

Also, ring-tailed lemurs have black gland-like nails on the inside of their wrists, and males rub the smell that comes out of the glands onto their tails during the breeding season. Then they appeal to females by shaking their tails vigorously and threaten other males by doing so as well.

By the way, the number of black rings on a ring-tailed lemur’s tail is always 14 or 15, regardless of age or sex.


What kind of personality does the ring-tailed lemur have?

Ring-tailed lemurs are said to be very calm, curious and friendly.

Ring-tailed lemurs value their companions because they have a habit of living in groups. They are also friendly to humans and have a curious side, approaching anything that catches their interest immediately.


Is it true that ring-tailed lemurs like to sunbathe?

It’s true.

Ring-tailed lemurs are primitive monkeys and although they are mammals, they are not very good at regulating their body temperature. Therefore, they have a habit of sitting facing the sun and using the power of sunlight to warm their bodies.


Can ring-tailed lemurs be kept as pets?

When breeding rare animals at home, it is necessary to follow the established laws in some countries. This time, we will introduce whether it is possible to breed ring-tailed lemurs at home in Japan.

Ring-tailed lemur is a popular animal for pets because of its cute personality and appearance. However, due to over-hunting for pets and habitat loss caused by development, their numbers have been greatly reduced. As a result, it has been illegal to trade “lemurs” including ring-tailed lemurs as pets in Madagascar since 1962.

Currently, ring-tailed lemur is listed in Appendix I of the Washington Convention as a species of “all species of the family Lemuridae”, which is an international agreement to protect wildlife from trade that may be affected or may be affected by trade and are at risk of extinction.

Animals listed in Appendix I can only be traded for “scientific research purposes” and only if permits are obtained from both the exporting and importing countries. Therefore, it is almost impossible to import ring-tailed lemurs as pets from overseas.

Ring-tailed lemurs belong to the same “Primates” as humans, so they are said to have more types of “zoonotic infections” that are common to humans and animals than animals such as dogs and cats.

In other words, it means that human diseases can infect ring-tailed lemurs, and ring-tailed lemur diseases can infect humans. Therefore, when dealing with ring-tailed lemurs, it is important to manage your own hygiene and the hygiene of ring-tailed lemurs.

As I explained earlier, it is currently difficult to obtain and keep ring-tailed lemurs. However, even if you are in a situation where you can keep ring-tailed lemurs, it is a good idea to remember that such knowledge is necessary.


Is there a place in Japan where you can see ring-tailed lemurs?

Ring-tailed lemurs are kept in many zoos such as “Maruyama Zoo” in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, “Saitama Children’s Animal Nature Park” in Saitama Prefecture, “Shizuoka City Nihondaira Zoo” in Shizuoka Prefecture, “Kyoto City Zoo” in Kyoto Prefecture, and “Adventure World” in Wakayama Prefecture.

Ring-tailed lemurs often give birth around March and many zoos have babies born every year. If you want to see a baby ring-tailed lemur, it might be a good idea to check each zoo’s website or SNS around spring.


What is the lifespan of a ring-tailed lemur?

The lifespan of ring-tailed lemurs is believed to be about 15 years in the wild and about 25 years in captivity.

Like many other animals, ring-tailed lemurs tend to live longer in captivity where they can obtain sufficient food stably and have no natural enemies.


What enemies do ring-tailed lemurs have?

Madagascar Island, where ring-tailed lemurs live, does not have large carnivores such as tigers or wolves.

However, wild ring-tailed lemurs do have natural enemies, which are said to be birds of prey such as eagles and hawks.

However, humans are the biggest enemy of ring-tailed lemurs. Ring-tailed lemurs are animals that live in a very limited range, Madagascar Island.

The forests where ring-tailed lemurs live have been cut down for livestock grazing and development of fields, and are being lost. As a result, they are losing their habitat and their population is decreasing rapidly.

As I mentioned in “Can ring-tailed lemurs be kept as pets?”, trading ring-tailed lemurs as pets is currently prohibited on Madagascar Island.

However, many people in Madagascar Island suffer from poverty and poaching for pets and food continues to this day.

Madagascar Island has been suffering from a large-scale drought and food shortages, and local residents are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. It might be a good idea for us who live in faraway Japan to think about how we can protect the people and nature of Madagascar Island.

By the way, ring-tailed lemurs are classified as “Endangered” on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a species facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.



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