Sanford’s brown lemur (Eulemur sanfordi)

Synonyms: Eulemur fulvus sanfordi
GenusEulemur (1)
SizeHead-body length: 38 – 40 cm (2)
Tail length: 50 – 55 cm (2)
Weight1.8 – 2 kg (3)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed under Appendix I of CITES (4).

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 (5). Both sexes are dark brown, with a lighter underside and darker areas at the end of the tail. However, females are a reddish-brown while males are more grey-brown in colour (2) (5). The most distinctive difference is the existence of a pronounced creamy-grey beard and prominent ear tufts in the male, that are lacking in the female, which give the male a ‘maned’ appearance. The male’s nose bridge and snout are black, while the female’s face and head are completely grey (2).

Restricted to the far north of Madagascar (2).

Found in tropical dry and moist lowland forest, and montane forest (3). Sanford’s brown lemurs are arboreal and spend most of their time in the upper layers of the forest (5) (6).

Sanford’s brown lemurs live in multimale-multifemale groups, generally numbering between four and seven in rainforest areas, but as large as 15 in dry forest regions. Breeding is seasonal with single infants generally born in September or early October after a gestation period of approximately 120 days. 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) (5).

This species is cathemeral, meaning it is active at varying times throughout the day and night. Fruit forms the bulk of this lemur’s diet, although mature leaves, flowers, bark, sap, soil, insects, centipedes and millipedes will also be eaten (2) (6).

Habitat destruction remains the primary threat to this lemur, largely as a result of the explosive growth in the human population on Madagascar (2) (5). Having such a small and restricted range accentuates this problem. Hunting and trapping for food or the pet trade also constitute a significant threat to Sanford’s brown lemur (2).

Sanford’s brown lemur occurs in three protected areas and a fourth, the forests of Daraina, soon to be officially declared a protected area (3). However, poaching and brush fires are fairly common events in many of Madagascar’s nature reserves, and protection needs to be increased. Only a handful of captive bred populations of this lemur exist around the world (5). The fate of this lemur will most probably be determined by the future of its forest habitat, which needs to be better preserved if the survival of this species is to be safeguarded.

For further information on Sanford’s 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 (December, 2009)