Primates in Situ

Ring-tailed Lemurs

A variety of habitats across Madagascar provide a home for ring-tailed lemurs – they are mainly found in gallery forest settings, but also inhabit the high-altitude mountain area and the spiny forest.  All levels of the forest canopy provide shelter, and the ring-tails are also more terrestrial than other lemurs – a fact that often brings them into contact with humans.  One of the safest areas for the ring-tailed lemur is the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve in southwest Madagascar, since human influence has little affected the reserve for at least two decades.  A varied, seasonal diet of stems, fruits, flowers and invertebrates is more specialized in a gallery forest/tamarind tree habitat such as BMSR, where tamarind fruits and leaves provide the major food source.

Ring-tailed lemurs are gregarious, forming large social groups that often interact with other ring-tail groups.  Females are socially dominant, the norm in lemurids, and have feeding priority over males.  Unfortunately, a varied diet may lead to crop-raiding, which in turn leaves the lemurs in danger of being attacked by dogs or humans.  Local people do tend to be tolerant, perhaps because, according to Mahafaly folklore, ring-tailed lemurs (the maky) were originally humans.  Thus it is not only wrong, but bad luck to hurt or kill a lemur.  Local people also recognize human-like characteristics such as the lemurs’ grasping hands and their reliance on vision to perform tasks.

Until more recently, numerous local people were unaware that lemurs are endemic to Madagascar.  New awareness has generated a certain pride in this uniqueness.  Yet the relationship between humans and ring-tailed lemurs varies throughout the island – in some areas poaching is on the rise, as well as habitat destruction, and poverty threatens cultural traditions.

 

Bush Meat

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As Other Cultural Products

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Eco-tourism

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