Flamingo Land’s ring-tailed lemurs have two new additions this week, following the birth of twins to proud mum Rainbow. Zoo staff were slightly surprised, as lemurs usually give birth earlier in the year, but both babies appear healthy and are doing well. Watch out for them clinging on to mum as she walks around the enclosure! Baby lemurs travel everywhere either hanging on to mum’s back or stomach until they are old enough to move about independently and keep up with the rest of the troop.
Ring-tailed lemurs are probably the most recognisable lemur, thanks to their black and white striped tails. They are also the lemur you are most likely to see in a zoo. Lemurs are primates but are not closely related to other primates such as monkeys, gorillas or humans. They have eyes which are reflective at night, rely more on their sense of smell, have relatively small brains compared to other primates, have wet noses and possess a unique feature known as a toothcomb, which is used for grooming. Lemurs are only found in Madagascar, where it is thought that just a few members of an ancestral species arrived 50-60 million years ago. Although not endangered, ring-tailed lemurs are considered to be threatened in the wild because the scrubby forest that they live in is being destroyed by slash and burn agriculture. Many other species of lemur are either endangered or critically endangered.
Ring-tailed lemurs mostly eat fruit, leaves and flowers, with occasional insects. The Flamingo Land lemurs are mostly fed on vegetables. This is because the fruit found in supermarkets in the UK is much more sugary than that which the lemurs would naturally find in the wild.
Lemurs are active during the day so visitors to Flamingo Land are likely to see them out and about, although it has to be said that they prefer warm, sunny weather! They like to sunbathe, sitting upright and turning their tummies to the sun. In cooler weather they will huddle together to keep warm.
Ring-tailed lemurs live in large groups. Females are dominant. Like all lemurs, they rely heavily on their sense of smell and will mark their territories with scent. Males will also rub their tails between scent glands on their wrists and then waft the smell at each other in a stink fight. Tails are also used to signal a lemur’s whereabouts to the rest of the troop.