The Madagascar island – off the south-east coast of Africa – is the only area on Earth where these ancient primates live in the wild. There are more than 30 species on Madagascar and the neighboring Comores Islands.
The mouse lemur is the smallest species of its kind in the world and is about the size of a chipmunk. Within this species, there are three sub-species – the grey mouse lemur, the brown or Rufus mouse lemur, and the pygmy mouse lemur. Some of their Malagasy names include Tsidy, Koitsiky, and Vakiandri.
The gray mouse lemur can grow to five to six inches in length, with their tails about the same size and can weigh anywhere between 30 and 90 grams. Their coat is grey with a light underside and their ears are long and fleshy.
Grey mouse lemurs feast on insects like beetles but have also been known to consume small frogs and lizards. They also eat fruit, flowers, and leaves. This particular species of lemur is nocturnal, arboreal and lives in secondary forests, degraded roadside brush and gardens.
The lifespan of the grey mouse lemur is up to 15 years. Females mate in September and after a 60-day gestation period will usually give birth to twins in November. The infant lemurs become independent after two months and reach sexual maturity by age one.
Socially, mouse lemurs forage by themselves but they like to sleep in groups. Female lemurs are the dominant sex – getting their choice of food and mates – a fact unique to prosimians (a sub-order that includes lemurs.)
While the mouse lemur is the smallest lemur in the world, the Indri (or Babakoto) is the largest. They can weigh up to ten kilograms and reach a height of four feet! Their fur is a mixture of black and white, while their face is black and hairless. The Indri’s ears are also black, modestly tufted, and highly visible. But, unlike other lemurs, the Indri’s tail is a short stump.
A truly unique characteristic of the Indri is their eerie wailing song that can be heard up to three kilometres away. This call is also used to defend their territory.
Similar to the mouse lemur, the Indri are also arboreal (tree-dwelling) and live in the eastern rainforests of Madagascar. Their diet is composed mainly of leaves, flowers, and fruit. Occasionally the Indri will forage for food on the ground.
Indri lemurs are active for five to 11 hours during the day. They live in groups of three to five, usually comprised of an adult pair and their offspring. They also sleep in pairs, 10 to 30 metres off the ground. Other group members can sleep as far apart as 100 metres from each other.
Reproduction is highly seasonal and Indris have a gestation period of 120 to 150 days, with births usually occurring in May. By eight months, baby Indris become independent of their mother but she remains close-by until the young lemurs reach age two. Indris reach sexual maturity by seven to nine years of age but their lifespan is unknown. Similar to the mouse lemur, female Indri’s are the dominant sex.