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PECO Primate Reserve
Ruffed lemurs get their name from the ruff of long, thick fur that runs from around the ears to under the chin. Their fur is thick, silky and colored black and white, in a patchy pattern that may serve as camouflage against the patches of sun and shade in their rainforest habitat. The amount and distribution of black and white varies from individual to individual, but in general, the tail, hands, feet, shoulders, face, and top of the head are black, while the back, rump, hind legs, and ears are white.
Ruffed lemurs are among the largest of living lemur species, although there were larger lemurs, (some nearly the size of a female gorilla) when humans first arrived on Madagascar about 2000 years ago.
Ruffed lemurs can live into their twenties in zoos, but a typical lifespan is around 18 years. Typical lifespan in the wild is not known, but is likely to be shorter than in zoos.
Female ruffed lemurs give birth once a year, to a litter of usually 1-3 infants. The babies are born after a gestation period of about 3 months. Unlike most lemurs and other primates, the mother will leave her babies in a safe place, such as a nest, the fork of a tree, or even inside a plant, rather than carrying them with her as she moves about. The infants are not able to cling to the mother when they are young, so she picks the infants up in her mouth if she does need to move them from one place to another, like a dog might carry a puppy.
Ruffed lemurs are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time in the trees. They live in groups that vary in size from 2 to 15 or more. Larger groups may break into subgroups. Within groups, females usually dominate the males. Although ruffed lemurs can be active at any time during the day, they tend to be most active around dusk.
Ruffed lemurs have a very loud call, which might be described as a roar and that can be heard from a long distance. This call probably plays a territorial function, but also seems to be used when the lemurs are alarmed by something. Once one member of the group starts calling, others often join in. When you’re at the Zoo, you might hear our lemurs call through speakers in the viewing areas.
Ruffed lemurs are about 4 ft (1.2m) from the top of the head to the tip of the tail.
Ruffed lemurs usually weigh 7-10 lbs (318-454 kg) as adults.
Lemurs usually use their teeth, rather than their hands or feet, to pick up food. Ruffed lemurs are the most frugivorous of all lemurs, mostly eating fruits, but also leaves, seeds and nectars. They occasionally are seen eating stick insects. At the Zoo, ruffed lemurs are fed a variety of fruits, vegetables, greens and insects, in addition to a variety of primate chows or biscuits that make up the base of their diet. The keepers put halved grapes on the glass of their exhibit as enrichment—when lemurs leap, it’s a great way to see them up close!
Black and white ruffed lemurs are native to the island of Madagascar, where they inhabit the rainforests of the eastern coast.
On the 2011 IUCN Red List for Threatened Species, the black and white ruffed lemur is listed as Endangered.
Learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo.
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