Indris, Indri indri, are found in the northeastern part of Madagascar.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Other Geographic Terms: island endemic
- Nowak, R. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World, 4th edition. V-1. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Malagasy Republic (=Madagascar)
Indri indri is considered to be the largest of the surviving lemur species. Individuals weigh between 7 and 10 kg when fully mature. The length of the head and body is 60 to 90 cm. The tail is vestigial and is only 5 to 6 cm long. Indris have prominent tufted ears, a long muzzle, long slender legs, short arms, and silky pelage. Individuals have variable pelage coloration, with patterns of grays, browns, blacks, and whites found in this species. The ears are always black, and the face, ears, shoulders, back, and arms are usually black, but may vary in color. Whitish patches may occur on the crown, neck or flanks, but may also occur on the rear and outside surfaces of the arms and legs. Individuals at the northern end of their range tend to be darker, whereas those at the southern end tend to be lighter in color.
Indris also have large hands and feet. The thumb is small and slightly opposable, but the big toe is large and very opposable. The other toes are held together by webbing and work as a unit.
Range mass: 7 to 10 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Indris reside in coastal and montane rainforest from sea level to 1,800 m in northeastern Madagascar.
Range elevation: 0 to 1,800 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
The Indri inhabits tropical moist lowland and montane forests. It lives in groups of two to six individuals, normally consisting of a monogamous adult pair (they seek new partners only after a mate dies) and their offspring. Groups in fragmented habitat tend to be larger than those in more extensive, undisturbed areas (Pollock 1979, Powzyk 1997). The diet consists primarily of immature leaves supplemented by flowers, fruit, seeds and bark, which vary in proportion according to season. They occasionally descend to the ground to eat earth, perhaps to detoxify seeds that have also been consumed (Powzyk 1997, Britt et al. 2002, Powzyk and Thalmann 2003). Home ranges average 18 ha in the fragmented forests of Analamazaotra, but have been estimated as large as 40 ha in the more pristine forests of Mantadia. Daily path lengths average 350 m per day (Powzyk, unpublished data). Females give birth every two to three years. Reproduction is highly seasonal, with the birth of a single offspring occurring in May or June. Reproductive maturity is reached between seven and nine years of age (Pollock 1977). Both males and females disperse and the sex ratio at birth is approximately 1:1 (Kappeler 1997).
Indris are vegetarian. They feed mainly on the fruits, leaves, and flowers of trees. Sometimes they feed on ground vegetation.
Plant Foods: leaves; fruit; flowers
Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore )
As frugivores, indris probably help to disperse seeds. To the extent that they serve as prey for other animals, they may affect local food webs.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Details on predation of these mammals are not available in the literature. However, it is likely that large birds, or heavier carnivorous mammals may prey upon them.
Life History and Behavior
As in other diurnal primates, visual signals are used in communication. Body posture and facial expressions are probably included in their visual signals. Indris are vocal, and use various calls to communicate. In addition, because they are social, tactile communication is probably important, especially between members of a family. Males use scent cues in marking familial territories.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The lifespan of this species has not been reported. However, other lemurs may live betweeen 25 and 40 years in captivity. Indris are probably similar.
Data on the mating system of these animals have not been reported. However, Indris appear to live in family units, consisting of a mated pair and their offspring. This indicates that these mammals are likely to be monogamous.
Mating System: monogamous
Indris breed seasonally, with individual females producing one offspring every 2 to 3 years. Births occur in May after a gestation of 120 to 150 days. Young are weaned at about 6 months of age, although they stay close to their mothers for about two years. Females become reproductively mature between 7 and 9 years of age.
Breeding interval: Indris breed once every two to three years.
Breeding season: Births occur in December in the northern part of the range, and in May in the southern portion of the range.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 120 to 150 days.
Average weaning age: 6 months.
Average time to independence: 8 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 7 to 9 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
The young ride on the mother's belly up to the age of 4 to 5 months, and then they move to the mother's back. Weaning takes place at about 6 months. At 8 months of age, the young are moving independently, although they stay close to their mothers until after age 2. The role of males in parental care has not been reported.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning
Indri indri is an endangered species. It is endemic to Madagascar, and it is losing its rainforest habitat for fuel, timber, and slash-and-burn agriculture. Destruction is occurring even in protected areas. Hunting of indris is taboo to the local people, although occasionally one is killed for food. Indris are not typically kept in captivity. Previous attempts to do so have been unsuccessful.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
A predicted population reduction of ≥80% in the future over a three generation time period (36 years) for this species is based on a continuing and projected decline in area, extent and quality of habitat, in addition to continuing and projected exploitation through unsustainable hunting pressure. Based on these premises, the species is listed as Critically Endangered.
- 1994Endangered(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Endangered(IUCN 1990)
- 1990Endangered(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Malagasy Republic(=Madagascar)
Population location: Malagasy Republic(=Madagascar)
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Indri indri, see its USFWS Species Profile
The principal threat to this species is habitat destruction for slash and burn agriculture, logging and fuelwood gathering, all of which take place even within protected areas. Increasing levels of illegal hunting is also a major problem for the Indri (Jenkins et al. 2011). Fady against the hunting of indri are becoming less respected, and hunting has thus worryingly increased since the political crisis, now posing a serious threat to this species.
This species is listed on Appendix I of CITES. It occurs in three national parks and one pending protected area (Mananara-Nord, Mantadia and Zahamena, and Makira Protected Area), two nature reserves (Betampona and Zahamena) and five special reserves (Analamazaotra, Mangerivola, Ambatovaky, Anjanaharibe-Sud, and Marotandrano) (Mittermeier et al. 2008). The corridors between Mantadia and Zahamena is being proposed as a Conservation Site. Anosibe An -ala Classified Forest in the south should be proposed as a protected area. A major region wide conservation education campaign to eliminate hunting, with the Indri as the flagship species, is recommended. This species has never successfully been kept in captivity and thus captive breeding programs are highly doubtful.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Indris are interesting animals and may be important in attracting ecotourists to Madagascar.
Positive Impacts: ecotourism
The name "indri", pronounced /ˈɪndri/, comes from the Malagasy word indry [ˈiɳɖʐʲ], meaning "there" or "there it is." French naturalist Pierre Sonnerat heard a Malagasy point out the animal and took the word to be its name. The Malagasy name for the animal is babakoto [bəbəˈkut]. Babakoto is most commonly translated as "ancestor" or "father", but several translations are possible. "Koto" is a Malagasy word for "little boy", and "baba" is a term for "father", so the word "babakoto" may be translated as "father of a little boy." The father-son dynamic of many of the Babakoto origin myths helps to explain the Malagasy name.
Along with the Diademed Sifaka, the Indri is the largest lemur still in existence. It has a head-body length of 64–72 cm (2.10–2.36 ft) and can reach nearly 120 cm (3.9 ft) with legs fully extended. It can weigh between 6 and 9.5 kg (13 and 21 lb), though the average is on the lower end of the range.
The Indri is a vertical clinger and leaper and thus holds its body upright when traveling through trees or resting in branches. It has long, muscular legs which it uses to propel itself from trunk to trunk. Its large greenish eyes and black face are framed by round, fuzzy ears that some say give it the appearance of a teddy bear. Unlike any other living lemur, the Indri has only a rudimentary tail. The silky fur is mostly black with white patches along the limbs, neck, crown, and lower back. Different populations of the species show wide variations in color, with some northern populations consisting of mostly or entirely black individuals. The face is bare with pale black skin, and it is sometimes fringed with white fur.
Due to these color variations, Colin Groves listed two subspecies of the Indri in 2005: The dark Indri indri indri from the northern part of its range and the relatively pale Indri indri variegatus from the southern part. Later editions of Lemurs of Madagascar by Russell Mittermeier et al. do not recognize this classification, and recent genetic and morphological work suggests the variation in the Indri is clinal.
The Indri practices long-term monogamy, seeking a new partner only after the death of a mate. It lives in small groups consisting of the mated male and female and their maturing offspring. In the more fragmented forests of their range, the Indri may live in larger groups with several generations. Habitat fragmentation limits the mobility and capacity of these large groups to break into smaller units.
Female Indri bear offspring every two to three years, with a gestation period of approximately 60 days. The single infant is usually born in May or June. The mother is the primary caregiver, though the father assists, remaining with his mate and offspring. Infants are born mostly or completely black and begin to show white coloration (if any) by two or three months of age. The infant will cling to its mother's belly until it is four or five months old, at which time it is ready to move onto her back. The Indri begins to demonstrate independence at eight months, but it will not be fully independent from its mother until it is at least two years old. The Indri reaches reproductive maturity between seven and nine years of age: a relatively slow rate.
The Indri is well known for its loud, distinctive songs, which can last from 45 seconds to more than 3 minutes. Song duration and structure varies among and even within groups, but most songs have the following three-phase pattern.
Usually, a "roar sequence" lasting for several seconds will precede the more characteristic vocalizations. All members of the group (except the very young) participate in this roar, but the song proper is dominated by the adult pair. They follow the roar with a "long note sequence", characterized by notes of up to 5 seconds in duration. After this is the "descending phrase sequence". The wails begin on a high note and become progressively lower-pitched. It is common here for two or more Indri to coordinate the timing of their descending notes to form a duet.
Different Indri groups typically sing sequentially, responding to one another. As well as solidifying contacts between groups, the songs may communicate territorial defense and boundaries, environmental conditions, reproductive potential of the group members, and warning signals. The Indri may sing after disturbances such as thunder, airplanes, bird calls, and other lemur calls. A group will sing almost every day, up to seven times daily. The peak singing hours are between 7 and 11 AM. Daily frequency of song is highest in November and December (near breeding season), when the Indri are even heard during the night.
Several other Indri vocalizations have been identified. The "roar" is also used as a warning signal for aerial predators such as hawks. The Indri emit a "hoot" or "honk" to warn of terrestrial predators such as the fossa. Other vocal categories include the "grunt", "kiss", "wheeze", and "hum". The purpose of these is still not entirely clear.
Diet and feeding
The Indri is herbivorous and primarily folivorous. It prefers young, tender leaves but will also eat seeds, fruits, and flowers. Female Indri seem to have greater preference for immature leaves than males do and will spend more time foraging among them. A wide variety of plant species are consumed, with members of the laurel family featuring prominently in the diet. The Indri consumes little non-tree vegetation.
To feed, the Indri plucks off a leaf or other plant part with its teeth. It uses its hands to pull tree branches closer to its mouth.
This lemur inhabits the lowland and montane forests along the eastern coast of Madagascar, from the Réserve Spéciale d’Anjanaharibe-Sud in the north to the Mangoro River in the south. They are absent from the Masoala Peninsula and the Marojejy National Park, even though both regions are connected to forests where indri do occur less than 40 km away.
Relationship with humans
Across Madagascar, the Indri is revered and protected by fady (taboos). There are countless variations on the legend of the Indri's origins, but they all treat it as a sacred animal, not to be hunted or harmed.
According to one origin myth, a boy went into the forest to collect honey, was stung by bees, and fell from a tree. An Indri caught him and carried him to safety.
Most legends establish a closer relationship between the Indri and humans. In some regions it is believed that there were two brothers who lived together in the forest until one of them decided to leave and cultivate the land. That brother became the first human, and the brother who stayed in the forest became the first Indri. The Indri cries in mourning for his brother who went astray.
Another legend tells of a man who went hunting in the forest and did not return. His absence worried his son, who went out looking for him. When the son also disappeared, the rest of the villagers ventured into the forest seeking the two but discovered only two large lemurs sitting in the trees: the first Indri. The boy and his father had transformed. In some versions it is only the son who transforms, and the wailing of the Babakoto is analogous to the father’s wailing for his lost son.
In all of the Babakoto origin myths, there is some connection of the lemur with humanity, usually through common ancestry. It is easy to see why the Indri is so closely identified with humans. Its long legs, large upright body, lack of a prominent tail, vocalizations, and complex systems of communication are all reminiscent of human traits.
Another human-like characteristic of the Indri is its behavior in the sun. Like its sifaka relatives, the Indri frequently engages in what has been described as sun-bathing or sun-worshipping. As the sun rises each morning, it will sit and face it from a tree branch with its legs crossed, back straight, hands low with palms facing out or resting on its knees, and eyes half-closed. Biologists are hesitant to call this behavior sun worship, as the term may be overly anthropomorphic. However, many Malagasy people do believe that the Indri worships the sun.
The Indri is an endangered species. The primary threats to its existence are habitat destruction and fragmentation due to slash and burn agriculture, fuelwood gathering, and logging. This kind of destruction occurs even in protected areas.
The Indri is also widely hunted, despite the many origin myths and traditional taboos (fady) which hold it sacred. Cultural erosion and immigration are partly to blame for the breakdown of traditional beliefs. In some cases, Malagasy people who resent the protective fady find ways to circumvent them. People whose fady forbid them from eating the Indri may still hunt the lemurs and sell their flesh, and those forbidden to kill the Indri may still purchase and consume them. Indri meat is prized as a delicacy in some regions.
- ^ a b c d e Groves, C. (2005). Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M, eds. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 120. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=12100081.
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- ^ Zaonarivelo, Andriantompohavana, Engberg, Kelley, Randriamanana, Louis Jr, et al. (2007). Morphometric data for Indri (Indri indri) collected from ten forest fragments in eastern Madagascar. Lemur News 12: 26–29.
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