110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Nov 26, 2012 - 6:11:00am
Beautiful amber eyes gazed at me through a cage as I visited a zoo in Massachusetts in July. The red ruffed lemur is from the tropical forests of Madagascar and nearby Comoro Islands, which are off the east coast of Africa. This guy was a bundle of energy, and was bouncing up and down in the corner of his cage on an invisible pogo stick as I watched. Guess that was his exercise!
This lemur's red furry body is 20 inches long, but his long, thick, bushy tail is 23 inches long, and he weighs about 8 pounds. He has a slender body and long legs. He is very vocal and noisy in his communications.
His tail has two purposes: He holds it high as a visual signal to other lemurs when threatened. It also is a balancing tool as he leaps among the trees.
The lemur resembles a fox, and has black, furless paws and face. A ruff of fur frames his face, so we know where his name came from! The females look the same as the males but are slightly larger. They are dominant over the males. Therefore, the gals get the best food, defend the group, choose their own mates, and are polygamous! Wow!
A lemur has a very small brain in relation to the rest of his body. He relies heavily on his sense of smell rather than sight, which is poor in the daytime. However, good instincts protect lemurs as much as possible.
In the wild, these nocturnal mammals live in small families of five or six, searching for their diet of flowers, fruit, seeds, nectar and leaves. They hunt together, but when food is found, they go their separate ways. More than 60 kinds of lemurs live in Madagascar, including the ring-tailed lemur and the pygmy lemur.
The main reasons for their dwindling population are loss of habitat from loggers chopping down trees, hunters illegally shooting lemurs, and trappers taking them for the pet trade. Their nonhuman predators are boa constrictors, eagles, hawks and fossas, which are a kind of weasel.
Red ruffed lemurs, one of the oldest species on Earth, are endangered. They live to be 18 years old if misfortune doesn't claim them. We all hope they never become extinct!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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