Greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus)

Synonyms: Hapalemur simus
French: Grand Hapalémur, Hapalémur Simien
GenusProlemur (1) (2)
SizeHead-and-body length: 40 – 42 cm (2)
Tail length: 45 – 48 cm (2)
Weight2.2 - 2.5 kg (3)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR A2cd) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).

Prolemur simus is the largest of the bamboo lemurs (5). A dense olive-brown coat covers the rounded body, whilst the underparts and tail are grey-brown in colour with a russet tinge (3). As well as its large size, the greater bamboo lemur can be recognised by the prominent pale grey or white ear tufts (3). However, a recently discovered population of this species has a strikingly different deep golden-red coat, and no ear tufts (3). The blunt muzzles of bamboo lemurs give their faces a more rounded appearance than other members of the family. They have relatively long tails and long back legs for leaping vertically amongst the trees of their forest habitat (3).

Endemic to Madagascar, fossil evidence suggests that the greater bamboo lemur was originally widespread in northern, central and eastern areas of the island (3). Today, however, this species is restricted to areas in and around the Ranomafana National Park of southeastern Madagascar, although data on distribution is scarce and populations may also exist in the Andringitra Massif and near to Vondrozo (3).

Found in humid primary rainforests where there are giant bamboo trees (Cephalostachium viguieri) (2) (3).

Very little is known about the natural ecology and behaviour of the greater bamboo lemur. Groups composed of 4 to 7 individuals (and occasionally up to 12) have been observed but little else is known about their social structure and interactions (3).

As its common name suggests, this species specialises on eating bamboo, a trait that is highly unusual amongst mammals (5). Almost 98% of the diet is made up of this low-energy food, especially giant bamboo (Cephalostachium viguieri). These lemurs prefer the inner pith of the plant, stripping away the outer layers in a destructive manner (3).

The rainforests of Madagascar are being widely cleared by slash-and-burn techniques and this habitat destruction is one of the major threats to the survival of the greater bamboo lemur (3). Bamboo is also being cleared in some areas, and this lemur is targeted by hunters in other regions (3). The known range of the greater bamboo lemur is highly restricted and this implies further threats to survival (3).

The greater bamboo lemur is protected within two areas in Madagascar, however, even within Ranomafana National Park the native trees are being exploited and this species is at risk (3). Further research into these little-known lemurs is urgently needed and more extensive surveys of the area may well reveal further isolated populations in need of protection (3).

For further information on this species see:

The Lemur Conservation Project:

The Madagascar Fauna Group:

EDGE of Existence:

Authenticated (25/02/2006) by Matt Richardson, independent primatologist and writer.

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2003)
  2. Richardson, M. (2006) Pers. comm.
  3. Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.
  4. CITES (March, 2003)
  5. Animal Info (March, 2003)