Lemurs are prosimians, a type of primate. Other more familiar primates include monkeys, apes and humans. Lemurs are found only on the African island of Madagascar and here they evolved in isolation. Unlike monkeys, lemurs have a moist nose and rely more heavily on their sense of smell. Physically many have especially pointed snouts and all but the largest lemur, the indri, have long tails. Today we know there are 107 kinds of lemur and new species are continuing to be described by scientists.
Lemurs are among the most threatened groups of mammals. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that, at current rates, over 90% of lemurs face extinction in the next 20 years.
Myakka City Lemurs
LCF initially focused on common brown lemurs, but the colony has expanded to accommodate six species. Over 50 LCF lemurs offer scientists and students research opportunities with the goal of improving conservation practices.
Through managed breeding coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, LCF has also contributed to the genetic diversity of captive mongoose, brown and collared lemurs. These births help stave off total species extinction.
Collared Brown Lemur
Common Brown Lemur
Red Ruffed Lemur
Sanford’s Brown Lemur
Located in the northeast, Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve (ASSR) is LCF’s main focal site for work in Madagascar. Here there are at least 11 lemur species, including some of the most threatened such as the silky sifaka and indri.
Through a diverse conservation strategy, LCF is working to protect the lemur populations of ASSR through improved habitat management and scientific study.
Eastern Woolly Lemur
Greater Dwarf Lemur
Photo by Alex Hyde
Hairy-eared Mouse Lemur
Photo by Nick Garbutt
Mittermeier’s Mouse Lemur
Northern Bamboo Lemur
Seal’s Sportive Lemur
White-fronted Brown Lemur
Meet Antenna Female, truly our most beloved silky sifaka lemur from one of LCF’s three long-term monitoring groups in northeastern Madagascar.
Nicknamed AF, originally she was the only silky sifaka in her group to wear a radio collar to track her in the rainforest, hence her name. Now, fully habituated to researchers, she no longer wears it but her name continues to be a term of endearment.
AF rules our main study group at Camp 2 of Marojejy National Park, which LCF is working to protect. She has been in the group since 2001, when Dr. Erik Patel began his doctoral research on this species. Once nine individuals, the size of her group is down to four: a new adult male, AF, her adult daughter MT (“black hands” in Malagasy), and her infant. Her age is estimated at mid-twenties. Despite her advanced age (life expectancy is about 30), she gave birth to her infant just last year.
She has always had the reputation of being a very attentive mother. The image of AF was taken in 2006, when she exhibited tremendous non-maternal infant care (alloparental care) carrying and traveling with the infant of another mother as well as her own simultaneously for nearly an hour on one occasion. It’s quite unusual to see a sifaka mother carrying two infants (they don’t twin), particularly one which is not her own. On another occasion, she actually permitted the other mother’s infant to nurse (allo-nursing). At the time, allo-nursing had not previously been described in eastern sifakas.
Fortunately, AF and her group weren’t harmed by Cyclone Enawo in 2017, but, this year, LCF hopes to begin reconstruction of Camp 1 and Camp 2 in Marojejy, both badly damaged by the storm and already in disrepair. Ecotourism is one of the three main objectives of the Lemur Action Plan, published in the journal Science and authored by numerous international primatologists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group.