The Ring-Tailed Lemur

By Dave Hanks

The Ring-Tail is a primate (species with thumbs) that is in the prosimian group – defined as primates that are neither monkey, ape, nor human. They are native to Madagascar (Africa), but have been introduced to the USA on St Catherine’s Island, Georgia. Their most conspicuous feature is their 24 inch tail that is colored with alternating black and white bands. They walk or run on all fours with that highly noticeable tail pointing skyward.

They are opportunistic omnivores that will eat ripe fruit, leaves, stems, flowers, spiders, spider webs, birds, insects, insect cocoons, and even the dirt from termite mounds. They are more terrestrial than other lemur species, and in the early morning, usually between 5:30 and 8:30, they move out on open ground to feed and to sun. Sunning is done by sitting upright on their haunches, spread-eagled, with their forearms on their knees. This exposes their undersides to the sun’s warmth. This activity follows a cold night.

Ring-tailed Lemurs live in large groups. Females are at the center of this society, and they rule the roost. Most group members are relatives, but males, when mature, will leave and search for new groups that they may join.

Communication is vital to each group and is done through sound, smell, as well as visually. Lemurs have 28 distinct calls of which 6 are used by the infants. Olfactory senses are facilitated by scents produced by glands on wrists, chest (close to the armpit), and genitalia. Of course, that extraordinary tail can be used like a flag to signal emotions, or as beacon for members of the group to follow as they move though their woodland habitat.

(A southern Texas wildlife park provides favorable living conditions)