Ring-tailed lemurs or lemur catta is the only species within the lemur genus. As other lemurs, it can be found in Madagascar only. It is locally known as hira or maky.
Ring-tailed lemurs are an especially social species. They live in groups of up to thirty specimens, where females have the social control −a usual behaviour amongst lemurs. In order to keep themselves warm and reinforce their social relationships, the groups curl up together until they form a “ball made of lemurs”. They love sunbathing with their white thin-skin ventral part looking at the Sun.
The size of the groups, their action area and their population density varies according to the region and the quantity of food they can find there. The groups are usually made of 6-25 specimens. However, sometimes groups made by more than 30 of them have been seen. Their action area varies from 6 to 35 hectares. The groups often occupy their own territory, but superimposition of territories is also usual. When two or more groups meet in nature they generally show an unfriendly hostile attitude. They usually occupy the same area during three or four days before they move again.
Like in most lemur species, females have social power on males in every situation, even when it is about feeding. They show their control by charging at males, chasing them, slapping them and biting them.
Young females do not necessarily heritage their mothers’ status. Young males leave the group when they are between three and five years old.
The smell sense is quite developed in lemurs and it is very important for them. They mark their territory with their scent glands. Males have a unique odour marking behaviour called “spur marking”, and they took part in a kind of smelly fights by rubbing their tails with the scent glands they have in their wrists and then slamming them against their male opponents.
Did you know that...?
These animals are the most vocal amongst primates. They are able to use several vocalisations, for instance, group-cohesion calls and alarm calls. Experiments show that these lemurs, despite of their little brain (in comparison to the simiiformes’), are able to rearrange sequences, to understand basic arithmetic operations and to choose an instrument according to its functionality.
They are omnivorous and diurnal, so they are active during the daylight hours only.
They spend 33% of their time on the ground and that is why we can say it is the most terrestrial of lemurs.
A threatened animal
Despite of the fact that the species has been classified as a quasi-endangered species in the IUCN Red List because of the current destruction of their habitat, ring-tailed lemurs reproduce very quickly in captivity and so they have become the most common lemur in zoos worldwide −there are about 2000 specimens. They are able to live for 16-19 years in nature and around 27 years in captivity.