The island of Madagascar is renowned for its wildlife, and is particularly famous for its numerous species of endemic lemurs. The animal first appeared in mainland Africa around 60 million years ago and crossed over to Madagascar soon after. One of the main reasons that they still exist today is due to the islandâ€™s isolation.
Numerous specialist nature tour companies offer wildlife holidays to the island, which is a very successful way to guarantee multiple sightings of this long-surviving species up close and in its wild habitat.
Madagascar has a diverse landscape consisting of rainforest, mountains, wetlands and dry forests, and each of these habitats are home to different types of lemur.
The animals form groups, known as â€˜troopsâ€™, which can consist of anywhere between six and 30 members. The females are usually the dominant members of the troop, which is rather unusual among mammals. The primates are extremely sociable and spend most of their time up in the trees eating, sunbathing or grooming one another.
In addition to their social actions, they often use vocal cues for interactive purposes. Grunts, wails and chirps are just some of the range of sounds that can be recognised within the lemur community.
Lemurs come in various shapes, sizes, colours and personalities, but one of the broader distinguishing features is whether the animal is nocturnal. Typically, the smaller primates are active at night whereas the larger species are diurnal.
Depending on the species, they can either be herbivores or omnivores, but generally their diet consists of tree bark, sap, flowers, leaves, fruit and, occasionally, small insects.
When mating, males compete for a female by using the scent of their tails. After spraying them with their own bodily secretions, the males wave their tails around in front of a female. The owner of the most pungent tail is the dominant candidate and wins the right to mate with the female.
The World Animal Foundation states that only 8% of lemurs are classified as being of â€˜least concernâ€™, with the rest being either critically endangered, vulnerable or somewhere in between. The main cause of this is the dwindling size of Madagascarâ€™s forests, and today less than 10% of the islandâ€™s original forest remains. Thankfully, there are several programmes, such as the work of the Anja Community Reserve, that play a significant role in the conservation and protection of these unique endemic species.
Encounter the Lemur on Specialist Wildlife Holidays
Nature lovers can get the opportunity to observe these animals in their natural habitat by embarking on one of the excellent small group wildlife holidays to Madagascar. Organised by specialist nature travel companies, they provide a memorable encounter with these quirky creatures in the very best locations, including Ifaty and Isalo National Park, among others.
Local guides have extensive knowledge of both the areas and the animals themselves, so there is no better way to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in rare and endangered animals. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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