IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)

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Red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer)

The red-bellied lemur was first identified in 1850 (Wikipedia). Malagasy tribal names include tongo, tagona, halomena, kirioka and soamiera; the French name is Lémur à ventre rouge (Wikipedia).

It has long, dense, deep chestnut-brown fur on the upperparts, which continues to the males' underparts; the females' underparts are creamy-white. The tail is almost black; the face and muzzle are dark slate-grey. The male has 'teardrop' patches of white bare skin under the eyes; the patches are greatly reduced in females, but these have white markings on the neck and chin. The male has very dense fur around his ears, making the head look look and has scent glands on his forehead. The head and body length is 34-42 cm, the tail length is 46-54 cm and the weight is usually 1.6-3 kg, about the size of a house cat.

The lemur seems to be restricted mainly to primary forest at 70-2,400 m above sea level in the eastern rainforest from northern Madagascar's Tsaratanana Massif south along the thin strip of east coast rain forest to the Pic d'Ivobe, Andringitra Massif and the Manampatrana River (Arkive, IUCN). It once ranged further south (Arkive, IUCN). It is thinly distributed and does not occur on the Masoala Peninsula (Arkive), but may occur in primary and secondary coastal rainforest (IUCN).

The lemur is cathemeral, but activity patterns vary and are related to the availability of preferred foods (Arkive, IUCN, Wikipedia). Groups may contain more than one adult of each sex, but the lemur generally lives in family groups of two to 10 individuals, comprising an adult pair and their dependant young (Arkive, IUCN). A dominant female leads the group,which travels and feeds as a single unit throughout its 10-20 hectare home range, which is relatively small compared to other large lemurs (Arkive, IUCN). This species is one of the more territorial lemurs and actively defending its home range, but neighbouring groups rarely show aggressive behaviour to each other (Arkive). Communication is complex and occurs in various ways. In addition to vocal communication, E. rubriventer uses chemicals to communicate. The prominent forehead scent gland of males is used to help mark territories. Facial expressions and body postures are some of the visual signals these primates use in communication. Finally, tactile communication, through grooming, mating, play, and aggression, also occurs. ADW

The lemur moves quadrupedally through the forests. It forages at all levels of the forest, including the ground. It feeds on over 70 different plant species, including the introduced Chinese guava (Arkive, Wikipedia). It feeds mainly on fruits, but also feeds on flowers, seeds, grains, nuts and leaves, depending on the season (Animal Diversity Web). It is an important seed disperser (Animal Diversity Web, IUCN) and seeds containe in the faeces may also germinate (Animal Diversity Web). It takes millipedes and other invertebrates. When it eat toxic millipedes, it drools on them first, which may help to neutralize the toxins so it can eat the animals (Animal Diversity Web). The lemur may also eat soil (Animal Diversity Web).

When a group of lemurs feed, they use a sentinel to keep watch for predators. If the sentinel detects a bird of prey or some other predator, it utters several low grunts. The other members of the group will freeze for up to 15 minutes or take cover. Predators include fossas, raptors and introduced dogs and cats (Animal Diversity Web). Humans hunt the lemur for food (Animal Diversity Web).

Red-bellied lemurs form monogamous pair bonds (Animal Diversity Web). These form the core of the social group, which typically consists of the mated pair and their young (Animal Diversity Web). An oestrous cycle lasts one month and ostrous lasts 1 to 2 days (Animal Diversity Web).Mating occurs from May-June (Animal Diversity Web). Females give birth to one infant each year from September-November, after a gestation period of 123-127 days (Animal Diversity Web, Arkive, IUCN, Wikipedia); twins sometimes occur and the birthweight is 60-70g (Animal Divrrsity Web). Mortality rate in infants is around 50% (Animal Diversity Web, Arkive, IUCN, Wikipedia). The young uses its prehensile instincts to attach to the mother for the first 2 weeks and to both parents until 33-37 days of life (Animal Diversity Web, Wikipedia). Initially, the female carries the young on her belly and later the infant carries it on her back (Animal Diversity Web). After 35 days of age, the female rejects it, while the male carries the infant until it is around 100 days old (Animal Diversity Web, Arkive, Wikipedia). Weaning occurs at 5-7 months (Animal Diversity Web, IUCN).The lemur becomes sexully mature at about 2 years old and lives 20-25 years in the wild (Animal Diversity Web).

It is thought to be one of the rarest Eulemur species (ARKive). It is listed as Vulnerable, due to a suspected population decline of at least 30% over 24 years, and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (IUCN). This is mainly due to a continuing decline in the area, extent and quality of habitat, mainly due to slash-and-burn practices and illegal logging, as well as exploitation through unsustainable hunting pressure (ARKive, IUCN, Wikipedia). It is known to occur in five national parks (Andringitra, Mantadia, Marojejy, Ranomafana, and Zahamena), two strict nature reserves (Tsaratanana and Zahamena), and six special reserves (Ambatovaky, Analamazaotra, Anjanaharibe-Sud, Mangerivola, Marotandrano, and Pic d' Ivohibe) (ARKive, IUCN). Groups of lemurs have become habituated to humans along trail areas in Ramomafana National Park and exhibis a tame behaviour to approaching humans who are silent and walk softly. Theyl descend from the trees to within 2-3 metres, staring back at the humans with curiosity and letting themselves be photographed as they cling to vertical trunks of saplings or engage in a terrestrial scamper (Wikipedia).


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