Head to World of Lemurs to find them. It's behind Marwell Hall and Tropical World next to our formal garden.
Status Critically Endangered
Size Head and body length: 38 – 40 cm. Tail length: 39 - 41 cm
Weight 1.4-1.6kg. Females are known to be slightly bigger than males.
Gestation 5 months
Life span Unknown in the wild, up to 23 years in captivity.
Alaotran gentle lemurs are herbivores, they feed on a wide variety of marsh vegetation such as reeds and grasses; however papyrus leaves make up the majority of their diet. These animals will only eat the newer parts of plants (such as new leaf growth), rather than the larger and more mature parts of the plant.
Like all other lemurs, the Alaotran gentle lemur is found only on the island of Madagascar. The Alaotran gentle lemur is found near reed beds and marsh lands surrounding Madagascar’s largest lake, Lac Alaotra.
Alaotran gentle lemurs live in small groups, usually consisting of a breeding pair and offspring. However, they are sometimes seen in small groups with two breeding females rather than just one.
These animals do not have a strict breeding season as they are able to breed throughout the year. Alaotran lemurs may leave their young on a small branch to go forage for food; but will come back to them to feed them. If the young need to be carried, then the mother will pick them up in her mouth; there have even been reports of females swimming with their young clinging to their backs. Alaotran gentle lemurs are weaned after 4 months; they reach maturity by 2 years old and are able to have their own young after this time.
Due to their unique habitat, it is unknown if the Alaotran gentle lemur has many natural predators; however birds of prey, snakes and the fossa are the most well known predators of lemurs in Madagascar.
One of the biggest threats to this species is loss of habitat, as the marshy areas they are found within are being converted into rice paddy fields. Further destruction of their habitat is caused by burning the marshlands, in order to catch fish and provide areas to graze cattle. In addition to this, the reeds within this habitat are collected to make products such as mats and fences. Other threats to the Alaotran gentle lemur include hunting for food and being caught to be sold within the pet trade.
Lake Alaotra, where these lemurs are found, was declared a Ramsar site in 2003, showing that it is a wetland habitat of international importance. Due to this new status for the habitat and the area, burning of the marshland and hunting of the lemurs has now been officially banned. These lemurs are also listed in Appendix 1 of CITES which prevents international trade of this species.
This is the only primate species that is known to live so close to water, as they mostly spend their time above and climbing within reeds and papyrus plants in marshy habitats.
The Alaotran gentle lemur moves around its watery habitat with the help of papyrus plants. They will walk along the plants using all four limbs; as the stems begin to bend under their weight they often reach the stem of the next plant.
This lemur is known to be very active both during the day and also throughout the night.
We had a fantastic time at Marwell today. Really lovely variety of animals and the signage has improved since our last visit so there were lots of interesting facts to learn as we went around. The giraffes, as always, are my favourite! XxSarah, 16th April 2016