Eastern woolly lemur

Avahi laniger

SUBFAMILY

Indriinae

TAXONOMY

Avahi laniger Jourdan, 1834, Madagscar.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

Malagasy: Avahy, ampongy, fotsifaka, fotsife.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Woolly lemurs are small, nocturnal lemurs, well camouflaged in beige, brown, and gray fur. Their ears are small and furred. Their noses are broad, black, and wet. Nocturnal, mediumsmall lemurs adopt a vertical posture. The fur is woolly and dense. The muzzle is short and dark and the head rounded with large brown eyes, accented with beige eyebrows. The fur on the thighs is bright white—like splotches of sunlight or moonlight. The head and body length is 9.8-11.6 in (250-295 mm); tail length is 12.4-14.6 in (315-370 mm), and weight is 2.0-2.9 lb (0.9-1.3 kg).

DISTRIBUTION

The eastern woolly lemur is found throughout the eastern rainforest, from the Marojejy Massif in the north to the Ando-hahela Massif in the south. A remnant population occurs in the central forest of Ambohitantely Special Reserve.

HABITAT

Primary and secondary forests.

BEHAVIOR

Nocturnal. The animal lives in monogamous pairs and offspring with a group size of 3-5. The family group sleeps throughout the day, huddled on a horizontal branch, usually near a tree trunk about 3-8 ft (0.9-2.4 m) from the ground. Activity begins just after dusk with the family group foraging within 80 ft (25 m) of one another. During the night the family spends 40% of the night in close contact, grooming or resting over 60% of the time. Feeding occupies about 22% of their time, with traveling about 14%. Woolly lemurs communicate to one another with a long, high-pitched whistle, especially during the bright moon, and a neighboring group will respond with an answering whistle. Alarm screams are heard when an individual is chased by a raptor, but woolly lemurs are silent and still when approached, and do not mob. Woolly lemurs do not have obvious glands that secrete scent, which is unusual for a nocturnal primate. They may use anogenital glands to communicate, but this has not been documented to date. Grooming of family members occurs at dawn and dusk. The family returns to its sleep tree just before dawn.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Magnificent leapers, the woolly lemurs vertically cling and leap from trunk to trunk, then climb up to the canopy of trees to eat young leaves. Obligate leaf-eaters, the woolly lemurs are known to eat over 20 species of leaves but prefer the leaves of Dombeya and Harungana, both abundant tree species found in the edge or second growth forests. Leaves containing tannins are preferred diet items. They also have been seen to eat flowers.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

A pair occupies a home range of between 2.5-4.9 acres (1-2 hectares). Woolly lemurs live in monogamous pairs with one infant born each year. Breeding is seasonal with infants born in August and September. The gestation period is unknown, although it may be 4-5 months. The infant clings ventrally to the mother for the first week and then rides on her back up to three months after birth. In one instance, a father has been seen to carry a two-month old infant on his back. The infant develops quickly. By three months of age the infant weighs 45% of adult weight, and has a full set of adult teeth.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Endangered.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Humans threaten to destroy their habitat. ♦

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