Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ring-Tailed Lemurs

Now it's time to write about another interesting animal that Mom saw at the zoo last week.  And this animal is the ring-tailed lemur.  It comes from Africa, just like basenjis, but it does not look anything like a basenji.  There are several kinds of lemurs, and they all live in Madagascar, which is a country that is an island on the east side of Africa.  In Madagascar there are many interesting plants and animals that you can't find anyplace else, and the lemur is one of them

The ring-tailed lemur has a very long tail with black-and-white rings on it, and that is how this lemur got its name.  The tail of the ring-tailed lemur looks sort of like a raccoon's tail, but there is no relationship between the lemur and the raccoon.  In fact, I was surprised to learn that lemurs are primates, just like chimpanzees or humans.

Ring-tailed lemurs live mostly in the south part of Madagascar.  They are NEAR THREATENED because a lot of the areas they live in have been destroyed.  But there are bunches of lemurs in zoos, and these lemurs have lots of baby lemurs, so there is really no danger that we will run out of lemurs.

Some primates live mostly in trees, but ring-tailed lemurs like to hang out on the ground.  They spend maybe a third of their time on the ground.  They like to sun themselves, especially in the mornings, and when they do this, it looks kind of like they are sitting in the lotus position.

Lemurs are very social, and they like to cuddle up together in what is called a lemur ball.  This way they can be friendly and stay warm.  It's kind of like when puppies sleep in a big pile, which I think is a fine way to sleep.  Here's a photo Mom took of a lemur ball at the zoo.

A group of lemurs that live together is called a troop, sort of like the Girl Scouts, but they don't earn any merit badges or anything like that.  The average size of a troop is between 13 and 15 lemurs, but sometimes there can be as many as 25 or 30 in a troop.  Oh, and guess what!  The females are in charge, and they make all the decisions, and the males just have to put up with it!

Ring-tailed lemurs eat all kinds of things, but their favorite thing to eat is fruit and leaves from the tamarind tree.  They also eat lots of other kinds of plants.  And during the dry season, they start eating things like spiders, caterpillars, cicadas (yum!), birds, and lizards.

Sometimes lemurs get eaten by other animals.  There's an animal called a fossa, which I had never heard of before, and it's native to Madagascar, and it likes to eat lemurs.  Buzzards, boas, and civets also eat lemurs, and so do cats and dogs.  I wish I could go to Madagascar and have a little lemur meat for lunch. I think it might be quite tasty.

Oh, here's something else that's interesting about ring-tailed lemurs.  They have teeth that are specially designed for grooming, and this is called a toothcomb.  Also they have something called a toilet-claw on each hind foot, and this is used to comb through the fur that they can't reach with the toothcombs in their mouths.  So I guess if you had a lemur for a pet, you wouldn't have to take it to the groomer because it could just groom itself.  But I don't think people keep lemurs as pets.  At least, it didn't say anything in Wikipedia about people doing that.

Lemurs are also pretty vocal, and they do a lot of scent marking.  This is how they keep track of the other members of their troop and tell rival troops to keep out of their territory.

Okay, that's all I'm going to tell you about ring-tailed lemurs.  I think it might be fun to have a few around to snuggle up with, even if Mom wouldn't let me eat them for lunch.

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