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Mongoose lemur

Scientific name: Eulemur mongozMongoose lemur

Country: Madagascar (and introduced into the Comoros)

Continent: Africa

Diet: fruits - frugivore, leaves - folivore, nectar - nectarivore, particularly the flowers of the kapok tree

Food & feeding: Herbivore

Habitats: Tropical dry forest

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Relatives: Ring-tailed lemur, aye-aye, indri

Description: Mongoose lemurs have soft grey-brown fur with a pale grey muzzle and black nose. The males have reddish-brown cheeks and may have a bald patch on top of their heads, caused by rubbing when scent-marking their territories. Females by contrast, have whitish cheeks. They are about 30 cm long, with a 45 cm tail and weigh roughly one kilogram.

Lifestyle: Mongoose lemurs are arboreal (tree-dwelling) and extremely agile, leaping between trees. On the ground they usually move on all fours but occasionally burst into a bipedal (two-legged) run. They are active for periods of both day and night (cathemeral). During the dry season they forage more at night, when the air is cooler. The lemurs love nectar, and in some areas 80% of their dry season diet is the rich nectar of the kapok tree, whose flowers open in the evening.

Family & friends: They usually live in small groups, consisting of an adult pair and up to three immature young, and have small home ranges of about three acres that overlap with neighbours.

Keeping in touch: Like other lemurs, mongoose lemurs have a good sense of smell and use scent marking to signal to other neighbouring groups. Males use the top of their head when scent-marking and may end up bald as a result.

Growing up: In the wild the young are born in October just before the rainy season and after a gestation period of about four months. Weaning occurs at about five months but the young usually remain with their parents until fully mature at three years old. In the wild, a mongoose lemur may live 18-20 years or up to 26 years in captivity.

Conservation news: The range of the mongoose lemur has probably always been limited but is now reduced to scattered patches of western dry forest. This habitat is threatened by slash and burn farming and charcoal burning. Mongoose lemurs are known to occur in only one protected area, the Ankarafantsika Nature Reserve. This makes the lemurs in captivity especially important and those at the Zoo are part of a European Conservation Breeding Programme.