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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

My zoo animal encounters: Red Ruffed Lemurs

As I've briefly mentioned in another post, I volunteer at my local zoo part time. During my time there (about two months) I've worked with a range of animals including big cats, zebra, giraffes and birds. I'm going to talk about my favourite animals that I've encountered as the weeks go by, including the maned wolves who I absolutely love! This post as you can probably tell by the title is about red ruffed lemurs, who I get to work quite closely with. The information in these posts is purely facts gleaned from my time at the zoo.

They love sunning themselves while posing!

Red ruffed lemurs are much larger than the more commonly known ring tailed lemurs, more or less twice the size. They originate from northern Madagascar whereas the ring tailed lemurs come from southern Madagascar, this and the fact that most Lemur species don't mix explains why the red ruffs often see the ring tails off in our mixed enclosure! They are endangered in the wild.
Red ruffed lemurs have thick fur that is a beautiful russet colour along the back which can appear bleached in some individuals as in the second picture above. This is actually very useful as it helps to distinguish one lemur from the next! As you can see from the pictures they have black fur on their tails and undersides. The skin of their feet and snouts looks like the finest quality softest leather you can imagine. Some also have markings such as a white ring around the base of the tail.
Their long tails are simply for balance, and are not prehensile as most people presume. Some individuals have extremely large canines, though most have fangs no larger than would be expected and can normally just be seen protruding from the top lip. Despite their ferocious looking teeth they primarily eat fruit and foliage, bamboo being a favourite and grapes are a special treat.
They can be expected to live for around 20-25 years in captivity, as opposed to only 15-20 years in the wild.
They can have litters of between 1-4 young, twins are quite common although we have triplets at the zoo who are now 7 years old.
Red ruffed lemurs are probably the noisiest lemurs! People are often scared witless when they make their warning/alarm call and remark that they thought it was a recording! Visitors often mistakenly think that they're having a fight but as I said it's a sort of warning call, started by one lemur to notify the others of a threat and it is passed along until they're all screeching together!
I've also witnessed them making a sort of chucking noise whilst grooming each other and I'm guessing that this is a kind of lemur chatter for showing affection or possibly mild irritation if one of them didn't want to be groomed.
Their back feet are specially adapted for life amongst the tress and look rather like our hands would if we stuck our fingers together and the used them as one digit along with our thumb. This means that they can not only grip the branches with their hands but with their feet too! Not only do they have excellent feet for gripping and a long tail for balance but they can also leap like nobody's business! Seeing them chase off the ring tails is an great way to really begin to appreciate just how skilled they are. They can change direction and leap several feet in the air in the blink of an eye with no hesitation whatsoever, always landing on target whether it be a fence post or platform!

This is about all the info I have on them so far, I'll be sure to add more as I learn and I'll be writing about my other favourite animals too!

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