Brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus)

Also known as: common brown lemur
Synonyms: Eulemur fulvus fulvus
French: Lémur Brun, Maki Brun
GenusEulemur (1)
SizeHead-body length: 43 – 50 cm (2)
Tail length: 41.5 – 51 cm (2)
Weight2 – 3 kg (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed under Appendix I of CITES (3).

This medium-sized lemur has a horizontal posture, which is suited to its predominantly quadrupedal mode of movement (2). These lemurs are also capable of leaping considerable distances, their long furry tails assisting them in maintaining their balance (4). The short, dense coat of both sexes is grey-brown on the upperparts, and paler and slightly greyer on the underparts. The face, muzzle and crown are dark-grey to black, with faint pale eyebrow patches and paler grey-brown fur around the ears, cheeks and underneath the chin. The eyes are a rich orange-red (2).

This species has a notably disjunct distribution, found in western Madagascar north of the Betsiboka River, on the high plateau in scattered forest fragments, and in eastern Madagascar to the north of the Mangoro River. It has also been introduced to the island of Mayotte in the Comoros (5).

Found in rainforest, moist montane forest and dry deciduous forest (2). Brown lemurs are arboreal and spend most of their time in the upper layers of the canopy (6).

Brown lemurs live in multimale-multifemale groups without a noticeable hierarchy, generally numbering from 3 to 12 individuals, with 9 to 12 being the norm (2) (4). Breeding is seasonal with mating usually occurring in May and June. The gestation period is approximately 120 days, with infants born between September and October, at the onset of the rainy season. A single offspring is usual, although twins have been reported (2). Brown lemurs reach sexual maturity between one and three years, and the lifespan in the wild is believed to range between 20 and 25 years (2) (4).

This species is cathemeral, meaning it is active at varying times throughout the day and night. Fruit, mature leaves, flowers, bark, sap, soil, insects, centipedes and millipedes form the bulk of this lemur’s diet (6).

Habitat destruction remains the primary threat to the brown lemur, largely as a result of the explosive growth in the human population on Madagascar (4). Eastern areas of rainforest are destroyed by slash-and-burn agriculture and by forest cutting for fuel wood and construction, while dryer western forests are cleared by fires started to promote new flushes of pasture for grazing cattle. Hunting and trapping for food or the pet trade may also constitute a threat to the brown lemur in some parts of its range (2) (4).

The brown lemur is found in at least 13 protected areas, including four national parks, two strict nature reserves and seven special reserves (3). Captive bred populations also exist in institutions worldwide (4). The fate of the brown lemur in the wild will most probably be determined by the future of its forest habitat, which needs to be better preserved if the survival of this lemur is to be safeguarded.

For further information on the brown lemur see:

Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.

Mittermeier, R.A., Tattersall, I., Konstant, W.R., Meyers, D.M., and Mast, R.B. (1994) Lemurs of Madagascar. Conservation International, Washington, D.C.

Animal Diversity Web:

Authenticated (21/11/2005) by Matt Richardson, independent primatologist and writer.

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)