Groves (2001) acknowledges the potential existence of two subspecies of Ring-tailed Lemurs as indicated by an article by Goodman et al (1996). The Andringitra high-mountain population is darker with a rufous brown back, darkish brown rump and dark grey-brown on limbs. It also has a thicker pelage and fewer tail rings in comparison to normal Lemur catta which has approximately fourteen rings of white and black, with a lightish red grey and light greyish rump and limbs (Jolly 1996 & Goodman et al 1996). Correspondence with the AZA & EAZA regions indicates as with the ARAZPA region Lemur catta are managed at the species level.
There is no pelage difference with males and females. The males have heavier heads and shoulders in comparison to the females. Both sexes possess small dark antebrachial glands on either wrist, with the females half the size of the males. The male’s antebrachial glands are overlain with a horny epidermal spine. The males also have brachial cutaneous glands on the axillary surface of the shoulder region (Wikipedia 2007, Mittermeier et al 2006, Jolly 1966).
Habitat and Distribution
Wild habitat is indicated as scrub, spiney desert to dry and gallery forest. Literature on the species has indicated the species forage intensively, approximately 900 – 1000 meters a day and the species is generally terrestrial by nature and with no particular level within the trees indicated as a preference. The Ring-tailed Lemurs are indicated to be moderately active at any time of the night, though the species is primarily diurnal. The species is only capable of surviving in primary vegetation the habitat of preference is gallery forests along rivers and Euphorbia bush (Mittermeier et al 1994 as cited in Nowak 1999 and Jolly 1966, Wolheim 1983, Mittermeier et al 1994, Sussman 1975, 1977 as cited in Rowe 1996).
The wild population has been indicated in decline due to habitat loss / degradation with agriculture (livestock presence), extraction (collection of wood), fires (natural and man made), harvesting (hunting/gathering), cultural / scientific / leisure activities, persecution and human encroachment which are ongoing. The result has been a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat. The wild estimated population is between 10,000 – 100,000 individuals (Ganzhorn et al 2000).
The negative economic impact in the Madagascar economy is through the protection of the lemur’s habitat the protection may interfere with economic ventures in the areas, in particular charcoal production and farming. The positive economic impact in the Madagascar economy is the species is a popular sight for tourists and provides revenue with the lemurs being easily found in protected reserves of Isalo National Park, The Andohahela, Andringita, Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserves, The Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve and The Berenty Private Reserve (Anderson 1999).
Ring-tailed Lemurs are considered vulnerable and are listed on CITES 1 appendix.
The ASMP Primate TAG has identified the Ring-tailed Lemur as a priority lemur species for the region due to its good founder base and the potential to source new founders from the American and European populations, as well as the large number of spaces being dedicated to the species by member institutions (Tyler, 2007).
Budnitz (1978), Sussman (1974 & 1977b) as cited in Harcourt et al (1990) wrote the species being active and foraging in all part of the forest and the species spends a good considerable periods of time on the ground.
Fruit (Frugivory) 54% (34-70%)
Leaves (Folivory) 33% (24-50%)
Flowers 3% (0-8%)
Herbs 8% (6-15%)
Bark, sap, cactus, misc 2% (0-7%)
The % indicates the average amount of the food type consumed in wild studies. The brackets indicate the mean range from the different field studies.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Ring-tailed Lemurs form multi-male, multi-female groups of approximately 6-24 animals, occasionally groups exceeding 30 animals have been recorded in the wild (Mittermeier et al 2006)
The sex ratio is approximately 0.6 adult males to 2.7 adult females (Jolly 1966).
Breeding groups consist of matriarchal female troops comprising several separate families living together as one unit organized around a core group (Rowe, 1996 & Budnitz et al, 1975 & Ingle, 1991).
Females remain within the natal group under a defined linear dominance hierarchy. This strategy is supported by literature which indicates that no adult female has been known to change status or disperse to another group. Further, females are never submissive to another adult who has been dominated and a female dominates all males and juveniles (Budnitz et al 1975; Jolly 1966). The result of this behaviour in captivity sees female groups refusing the introduction of unrelated females to the natal group.
In the wild, males disperse from the birth group to join other female groups at intervals after maturity, with temporary male-exchange groups which occur, approximately every 2 ½ years, allowing for gene flow. During the period when the males transfer between troops, temporary solitary or all-male groups (bachelor groups) are formed (Budnitz et al 1975; Jolly 1966; Jolly et al 2002; Gould et al 1997). In the ASMP captive environment, a similar situation occurs. Bachelor groups are formed with male exchanges or transfers to captive female groups made for breeding purposes (Tyler, 2007).
Interested individuals are encouraged to provide in situ support for Ring-tailed Lemurs through contributions to the Madagascar Fauna Group which is heavily involved in range state conservation and capacity building initiatives.
Madagascar Fauna Group, c/o Saint Louis Zoo, 1 Government Road, Saint Louis MO 63110 USA
The Zoo and Aquarium Association acknowledges Perth Zoo for providing the factsheet information above.