Eastern Woolly Lemur
Vulnerable (IUCN Red List, 2020)
What they look like
The eastern woolly lemur is slightly larger and darker than the western woolly lemur, but they still only weigh in at about 3 lbs. They are named for the curly, dense fur on their backs which has a woolly appearance and varies in color from gray-brown to reddish. Eastern woolly lemurs, like other woolly lemurs, have a distinctive white stripe on their thighs. Their faces have lighter fur on the cheeks and throat, and their ears are small and mostly concealed by thick fur. They cling vertically to trees and have very strong legs for leaping. Typically, these lemurs also have very long tails, usually longer than their head and body length combined.
Where they live
As their name suggests, eastern woolly lemurs inhabit eastern Madagascar in four national parks (Marojejy, Mantadia, Zahamena, and Mananara-Nord) as well as a number of special reserves including Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve. Their range is mostly concentrated in the northeast and extends from the Bemarivo River in the north to the Nesivolo/Mangoro in the south. Habitat preferences include tropical moist lowland and montane forests, as well as secondary forest formations.
What they eat
They are folivores. Although the vast majority of their diet is comprised of leaves, they sometimes snack on fruits and flowers. They are one of the smallest folivorous primates.
How they behave
All woolly lemurs are nocturnal. But, even during their waking hours at night, this species of lemur has a relatively low level of activity, perhaps due to the poor nutrition of their diet which consists mostly of leaves. Eastern woolly lemurs sleep together in huddles of up to five individuals 2 to 9 meters off the ground in the forks of the trees below the canopy. Occasionally they may also rest or sleep near to the ground in clumps of dense undergrowth. Groups are “pair bonded,” comprised of an adult male/female pair plus offspring.
How they reproduce
Mothers give birth to a single infant between August and September. Females are sexually receptive (estrus) for only a 24-hour period. The newborns first cling to the mother’s abdomen like a belt but once old enough, they move to her back.
What threats they face
Eastern woolly lemurs were classified as Least Concern by the 2008 IUCN Red List assessment, but have moved up to a Vulnerable classification in 2014. Human activity is the primary cause of their population decrease. Slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging, and bushmeat hunting has resulted in habitat loss for these lemurs. Poachers often take advantage of their sleeping sites to opportunistically capture sleeping groups in the daytime.
Eastern woolly lemurs in Marojejy National Park and Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve
At night, woolly lemurs can be confused with sportive lemurs (Lepilemur), although Avahi has more concealed ears and a fluffier appearance. However, woolly lemurs can easily be identified when close enough due to a very distinct white patch on the backs of their thighs. The characteristic stripe is so distinctive that locals in Madagascar commonly call these lemurs “fotsife” which means “white leg.”