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There are several reasons for using lemurs as pets. Among the rural population, some species of lemurs are considered good luck charms while others believe that they ward off evil spirits. This situation is typical in many villages where lack of awareness makes people believe that it is legal and natural to own lemurs. But this is not the main threat, as lemurs in rural areas are a minority compared to what happens in big cities and tourist resorts.
The number of lemurs as pets has exploded with the trend of resorts using them as selling points. It is not uncommon to see lemurs in private gardens in hotels in Nosy-Be or Sainte-Marie. The promoters believe that these lemurs receive all the necessary care and are in semi-liberty, but this remains an illegal practice.
Other tourist complexes will create small nature reserves to accommodate lemurs, but these are used as a selling point to encourage high-end tourism. Thus, promoters offer tours to see lemurs in their natural habitat when it is just life-size golden cage. Furthermore, these private parks do not have the approval of local authorities to host lemurs.
Lemurs, what characterizes this primate?
Lemurs are friendly little animals with unique characteristics. These primates are considered distant cousins of monkeys and perhaps even their ancestors. Lemurs live on the island of Madagascar. It is believed that they arrived at this destination long ago on floating tree trunks after a natural disaster. The first ones to colonize Madagascar are the smallest ones known today. They are called Microcubes and were at the time, the size of a mouse.
Lemurs can be recognized by their big round eyes that often look bewildered. They also have certain behaviors that can be described as human mimicry. We want to caress them so much; they look sweet and nice. But, be careful, you should not trust them because they remain wild animals and some of their ancestors were twice the size of humans and even weighed up to 200 kg. Lemurs are emblematic on the island because they have often been the subject of Malagasy legends and tales. At first, they were qualified as cannibal creatures, then as lucky charms or bad omens. Thus, some were hunted and others were adored according to their species. Today, these animals are preserved. The Malagasy adopt some of them as pets. Others, on the other hand, such as the Aye Aye scare them and are still considered bad omens
From one species to another, the food of the lemur is very variable. The smallest are frugivorous and insectivorous while the largest are herbivorous. On the other hand, to preserve the race, when they are starving, they eat everything edible and become omnivorous. Plants growing in Madagascar remain the majority of their diet, as most species are arboreal except for the black and white Maki Vari which consumes only grass.
The lemur is a sociable animal and lives in groups of at least fifteen individuals. On the other hand, the nocturnal lemurs, although social, often live alone to look for their food and then nest with others during the day. Today, these cute little animals are threatened by many environmental problems such as hunting, trade in exotic animals, climate change, and especially massive deforestation. Many associations and zoos are trying to save them from extinction. Let’s hope that this nice little primate can survive and reproduce in its natural environment and repopulate the island of Madagascar in the years to come.
Where can I meet lemurs?
To meet lemurs living in the wild, you have to go to Madagascar, because they are only present on this island. While walking, you can meet them everywhere around the forests. Some are also present in Mayotte and Comoros, but in zoos like everywhere else in the world. Lemurs are endangered because their natural habitat has been destroyed by man over the years in the rainforest.
Physiology of lemurs
Lemurs, like all primates, have five toes with strong nails that allow them to cling to branches. Many species have even developed a thicker nail than others which is called the toilet claw. This claw allows the animal to groom itself and scratch. The big toe is separated from the other fingers to better hang on a branch. Their vomeronasal organ allows them to detect their congeners thanks to the pheromones they give off.
The back legs are more developed than the front legs allowing them to jump quite far. Their tongue is very long to catch nectar and pollen from the flowers they feed on. The teeth are very different depending on the species. Some like the Indris have teeth to cut leaves and crush seeds. Others like the Phoner have longer teeth to bite into the bark of trees to reach their sap. They all have a comb made of six teeth except some who have only four when they are adults because they lose the incisors when they are young. Smell is a very important sense in lemurs
Lemurs are endowed with a powerful sense of smell which they use to communicate especially at night. We can notice that their snout is quite long. Contrary to what one might think, lemurs move more with their developed sense of smell than their visual capacity. Their visual acuity is also quite low although they have a strong retinal summation.
The metabolism of the lemur
The lemur can conserve its energy during the dry season. It can lower its water and food requirements by up to 20%. In the sun, the lemur will sit with its back arched and huddle together to reduce heat loss to conserve as many calories as possible. Before the dry season arrives, the lemur gathers fat at the base of its hind legs and tail to fight against the heat when it comes.
The behavior of the lemur varies according to:
- Its locomotion
- Its diet
- Its social system
- Its activity
- Its communication with its congeners
- The breeding of its young
This behavior also varies according to the species. Small lemurs are more nocturnal than large lemurs which are diurnal.