Lemurs are primates with characteristics similar in nature to monkeys and apes. They are neither monkeys nor apes even though they look similar. They belong to the family of Lemuridae which comprises 105 species with ranging sizes. Lemurs are classified into different classes such as gray mouse lemur, Golden-crowned sifaka, coquerel’s sifaka, black lemur, Aye-Aye, Indri, and Ring-tailed lemur. The ring-tailed lemur is the most common with small-sized body, striped black and white tail. It is the most intelligent of the lemurs with the ability to be trained in zoos and animal parks, and can be called by the trainer’s signal to come thus amazingly attracting a good number of tourists to their destinations. Indri is the largest in size of them all growing up to 90cm with an average weight of 7-10 kilograms. Madame Berthe's mouse lemur is the smallest of them all growing up to 11cm in length and an average weight of 1 ounce.
Habitat and Distribution of Lemurs
Lemurs are adapted to different living conditions and mostly occupy the dry deciduous forests, rain forests, wetlands, tropical lowland forests, east coast rainforests, mountains and spiny forests of Madagascar. Lemurs are found only in Madagascar and parts of the Comoro Islands off Mozambique’s coast in Africa, making them one of the most endangered species in the world. They spend most of their time on trees and on the ground when searching for food. They can easily adapt to various climatic conditions which is why they are spread out in rainforests and dry and hot areas.
Lemurs can be found in high concentration in overgrown rainforests. This is mainly because of the abundant supply of food throughout most of the year in such environments. When there is food scarcity, these primates can leave the rainforests to other areas where there is an abundant supply of food. The population increase is high when there is enough food and low when there is drought. Overall, lemurs can be found in many varied locations which makes it difficult to accurately know how many they are in a particular region or area.
Threats in their Current Habitat
It is estimated that 90% of Lemur species are endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable. For the most part, this has been caused by loss of natural habitat as humans encroach on rainforests. The political crisis in Madagascar and environmental crime have led to the rapid loss of rainforests which serve as the natural habitat for over 100 lemur species. As a result, there has been a population decline of lemurs over the past decade. Due to high poverty levels among locals in Madagascar, some have resorted to cutting down of trees to create room for cultivation. This coupled with illegal hardwood trade has led to massive destruction of rainforests.
In addition, lemurs are hunted for their meat by locals. Something that never occurred in the past but has nonetheless become a trend in recent times. This derails the conservation efforts which see the numbers continue to dwindle by the day. Many foreign governments and organizations have also withdrawn their funding for conservation, which creates a new challenge to prevent these wonderful primates from becoming extinct.