Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Black Lemur

(Eulemur macaco macaco)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in forests and timber plantations on the northwestern tip of Madagascar (off the southeast coast of Africa) and a few outlying islands.

Size: 12-18 inches tall; 4-6 pounds

Wild Diet: Fruit, nectar, seeds, leaves, flowers, mushrooms, and occasionally insects

Predators: Raptors, fossas, and humans

Lifespan: 16-20 years in the wild; 20-25 years in zoos

Reproduction: Black lemurs are ready to mate at 2 years old.  Typically, a single baby is born after a 4-month gestation; twins are also common. Babies ride hanging from their mother’s stomach for about a month, shifting only to nurse, and then move to riding on her back.

Behavior: Black lemurs are "cathemeral," meaning that they are active during several periods of the day and night. They are most active when the Parkia tree produces nectar, which can only be collected at night. They are arboreal and highly social. Troops contain up to 15 related individuals and are dominated by females. Grooming is an important social bonding activity within troops; they use their specially-shaped lower incisors and canines as “comb teeth” to remove parasites and excess fur from family members. They communicate using scent marking, vocalizations, body postures, and touch.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Vulnerable

Black lemurs are threatened by habitat loss due to logging and slash-and-burn forest clearing for agricultural purposes. They are also hunted for their fur or meat, captured for the pet trade, and occasionally killed as pests.

Did you know?

  • Male and female black lemurs look so different that they were once thought to be different species. Males are all black, while females are dark brown or rust-colored with an off-white stomach.
  • Black lemurs are the sole seed dispersers for many tree species, spreading seeds through their droppings.
  • They can hang by their feet to feed.
  • They are among the most adaptable lemurs and don't mind living close to human activity.
  • Common black lemurs have orange eyes. The black lemur subspecies Eulemer macaco flavifrons, known as the blue-eyed black lemur, is the only other primate besides humans to have blue eyes as adults.