Mongoose lemur (Eulemur mongoz)

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Close up of a female mongoose lemur
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Mongoose lemur fact file

Mongoose lemur description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderPrimates
FamilyLemuridae
GenusEulemur (1)

One of the smallest of the five Eulemur species, the mongoose lemur has soft, woolly fur, a relatively long, bushy tail and a pronounced ruff around the neck and ears (4) (5). This species is sexually dimorphic, with the sexes displaying different coat colouration. Males have grey-brown fur on their upper parts, with a slightly darker tip to the tail, much paler, creamy-grey underparts, pale grey faces, and distinctive reddish-brown fur on the sides of the body, cheeks, beard, forehead and back of the neck (4) (6). Males have white beards when born that become red as they mature (4). Females are generally paler grey than males but, like males, usually have a darker tail tip and creamy-grey underparts (6). However, in contrast to the red collar of the males, the cheeks and beard of females form a creamy-grey to white ruff, and the face is darker grey (6) (7). The eyes of both sexes are reddish-orange (6).

Synonyms
Lemur mongoz.
French
Lémur Mongoz, Maki Mongoz.
Spanish
Lemur Mangosta.
Size
Head-and-body length: 30 - 35 cm (2)
Tail length: 45 – 48 cm (2)
Weight
1.1 – 1.6 kg (2)
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Mongoose lemur biology

The activity pattern of mongoose lemurs varies with the season, making it very different to that of most other primates (4). Individuals display cathemeral behaviour throughout the wet and dry seasons but, during the dry season, individuals tend to be more nocturnal, switching to more diurnal and/or crepuscular activity at the start of the wet season (4) (8). Fruit appears to dominate the diet throughout the year but flowers, particularly those from the kapok tree, are also eaten during the wet season, and these lemurs are extremely fond of nectar (6) (8). During the dry season, the mongoose lemur supplements its diet with mature and immature leaves (6) (8). The species has also been observed to feed on the occasional grub and beetle (6) (8).

On the mainland, mongoose lemurs live in small family groups made up of an adult male, adult female and one to three of their offspring (6), but congregate in larger groups in the Comoros (2). Home ranges are small and often overlap those of other groups. Although neighbouring groups rarely encounter one another, aggressive vocalisations, scent marking, and physical charges and threats are made when they do (8). Females are generally dominant to males, having preferential choice over food and mates (4). Mating is seasonal, with single offspring (rarely twins) being born from August to October, just before the rainy season, after a gestation period of around 126 - 128 days (2) (4) (5). The infant is weaned at approximately 135 days old, and young are forced to leave the group when they mature at around 2.5 to 3.5 years old (4).

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Mongoose lemur range

The mongoose lemur’s natural range is restricted to north-west Madagascar, but the species is also found on the Comoros Islands of Moheli and Anjouan, where it is thought to have been introduced (1) (6). A few feral individuals may also exist on Grande Comoro (6).

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Mongoose lemur habitat

On the mainland, habitat includes dry deciduous forests and secondary forests. On the Comoros Islands, this arboreal species is found in humid forest (6).

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Mongoose lemur status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU A1c, C2a) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and listed under Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Mongoose lemur threats

The principle reason for the decline of the mongoose lemur is habitat loss, as dry-deciduous forests of the north-west continue to be cleared to create pasture and charcoal (6) (8). Additionally, the species is hunted for food throughout much of its range, occasionally trapped for the pet trade, and persecuted for its assumed role in raiding and destroying crops (4) (8). In Comoros, the mongoose lemur faces similar threats (6).

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Mongoose lemur conservation

It has been illegal to kill lemurs since 1974 but, sadly, many local people are unaware of this law and hunting continues (4). The lemur is protected through its occurrence in the Ankarafantsika Nature Reserve, and captive populations are present in European and North American zoos. Some of these institutions have achieved notable breeding success, and captive breeding and reintroduction programmes are therefore a viable option for future conservation efforts to preserve this small, rare primate (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the mongoose lemur see:

Animal Diversity Web:
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu

Animal Info - Information on Endangered Mammals:
http://www.animalinfo.org/species/primate/lemumong.htm

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

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Authentication

Authenticated (08/05/2006) by Matt Richardson, independent primatologist and writer.

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Glossary

Arboreal
Living in trees.
Cathemeral
Active intermittently throughout the day and night, rather than exclusively during either the day or night.
Crepuscular
Active at dusk and/or dawn.
Diurnal
Active during the day.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Sexual dimorphism
When males and females of the same species differ in appearance.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2006)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Richardson, M. (2006) Pers. comm.
  3. CITES (January, 2006)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Animal Diversity Web (April, 2006)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu
  5. Roger Williams Park Zoo (April, 2006)
    http://www.rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org/what_to_see/madagascar/lemur_mongoose.cfm
  6. Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.
  7. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  8. Animal Info - Information on Endangered Mammals (April, 2006)
    http://www.animalinfo.org/species/primate/lemumong.htm
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Image credit

Close up of a female mongoose lemur  
Close up of a female mongoose lemur

© David Haring / gettyimages.com

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