Ring-tailed lemurs are found in the forests of southern and southwestern Madagascar. They feed mostly on leaves, flowers, stems and fruit, as well as insects. The average lifespan of ring-tailed lemurs in the wild is 18 years, while those that live in captivity tend to live longer.
Ring-tailed lemurs have brown or gray fur on their back and legs and white fur on their stomach and face. They also have black markings near their eyes and a long, furry, black and white tail. Adult ring-tailed lemurs have an average length of 39.5 inches from head to tail and weigh 5 to 7.5 pounds.
Ring-tailed lemurs typically breed from mid-April to June. Females produce litters of one to two offspring following a gestation period that lasts four to four and a half months. The mother lemur cares for her young and weans them when they are around 5 months old. Up to half of infant lemurs do not survive their first year, so female lemurs tend to breed every year.
Ring-tailed lemurs are highly social and form groups of 12 to 24 members. The females take turns caring for each others' offspring and letting them play together. They are also more territorial than male lemurs, especially during the breeding season. Ring-tailed lemurs are active during the day and rely on visual signals, including facial expressions, to communicate with other lemurs. They also use scent markings, and males get into what are known as “stink battles” with other males during the breeding season.
Ring-tailed lemurs are still found in their historical range throughout southern and southwestern Madagascar, and it’s possible that their range is actually greater than previous surveys have shown. Overall, their population has decreased from 20 to 25 percent during the past 24 years.
Ring-tailed lemurs are listed as "Endangered", because their population is expected to continue dropping as habitat loss increases due to overgrazing and controlled burning to create land for livestock. They are also trapped and kept as pets or hunted for food. Ring-tailed lemurs are protected under international legislation and many live in protected areas. Though lemurs are quite successful in captivity and there are over 2,000 in zoos around the world, their numbers in the wild continue to drop and its estimated that there may be slightly less wild ring-tailed lemurs than captive examples.
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