Critically Endangered (IUCN Red List, 2019)
What they look like
The smallest species of their genus, mongoose lemurs weigh 1.1-1.6 kilograms (about 3 pounds). They are sexually dichromatic, meaning that fur color varies by gender. Males have reddish-brown cheeks and beard which frame their gray muzzle and face. Females, by contrast, have white or creamy gray cheeks and beard, and they tend to be a lighter gray overall. Males also have a darker tip of the tail, with a dark pygal (rump) patch and a creamy ventral (stomach) coat. Reddish-brown cheeks and beard frame their gray muzzle and face.
Where they live
In Madagascar, mongoose lemurs inhabit fragmented dry deciduous forests and secondary forests in the northwest of Madagascar. They are only found in one protected area, Ankarafantsika National park. Mongoose lemurs are also one of only two species found in the wild outside Madagascar. They inhabit the islands of Mohéli and Anjouan in the Comoros where they were likely introduced by humans hundreds of years ago.
What they eat
Mongoose lemurs have a predominantly frugivorous (fruit) diet mainly supplemented by leaves, flowers, and nectar. They also occasionally consume beetles, grubs, fungi, dead wood, and even birds. They may serve as important pollinators and seed dispersers.
How they behave
Mongoose lemur activity varies with the season and available light. As cathemeral animals, they travel, feed, and socialize both night and day, becoming more diurnal in the warm, wet season and nocturnal in the dry. Foraging at night in the hot, dry, less leafy months may help them conserve energy and avoid predators.
Groups are “pair bonded,” comprised of an adult male/female pair plus offspring. When families encounter each other, much agitation, vocalizations, and scent-marking ensues.
How they reproduce
In Madagascar, breeding occurs in May and June. Females are sexually receptive (estrus) for only a 24-hour period. Births occur after approximately 125 days of pregnancy in October and November. Females solicit males by presenting their hind-quarters, grabbing his head, and/or “chin cuffing,” in which she cups her hand under his snout. Females usually deliver a single offspring each year. Sexual maturity is reached between 2 and 3 years of age.
What threats they face
Natural predators include hawks, boa constrictors, and fossae (a large, carnivorous mammal, related to the mongoose with qualities of a cat). Human activity is decimating the mongoose lemur population as slash-and-burn agriculture, clearing land for cattle, and charcoal production destroy forests. Hunting—for food and for the luxury bush-meat market—is also having a devastating effect. Local customs once provided a greater degree of protection in the Comoros, but now the species is often regarded as a crop pest.
Mongoose lemurs at LCF’s Florida reserve
LCF continues to manage one of the most successful breeding programs for mongoose lemurs in the United States which contributes to the genetic diversity of the species and helps provide a safety net against extinction.