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Red-ruffed lemur

Scientific name: Varecia rubraRed-ruffed lemur

Country: Madagascar

Continent: Africa

Diet: Fruits, especially figs - frugivore, leaves - folivore, nectar - nectarivore. In the Zoo, they are given a variety of fruit plus specially made pellets, which contain all the necessary nutrients and vitamins to keep them in good health.

Food & feeding: Herbivore

Habitats: Tropical rainforest

Conservation status: Endangered

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

Description: The red ruffed lemur is one of the largest primates of Madagascar with a body length of up to 56 cm, a tail length of up to 62 cm and a weight of about four kgs. Their soft, thick fur is usually red and black in colour but a few are known to have a white or pink patch on the back of the neck and/or a ring on the base of the tail in a similar colour.

Lifestyle: Active during the day especially in the evening, often to be found feeding in trees with ripe fruit. Fruit makes up 75% of the diet. In the rainforest, fig trees do not bear fruit all at the same time, so the day is spent moving through the forest jumping and climbing from tree to tree, looking for ripe fruit. They may cover up to 1200m per day in their search.

Family & friends: A red ruffed lemur family is composed of five or six animals. Sometimes these families are grouped in loose communities of up to 30 animals. The animals keep in touch while travelling through the forest, and come together when a fruiting tree is found.

Keeping in touch: Neighbouring groups call to each other through the forest with raucous calls. They have an elaborate system of alarm calls which alert group members to danger. The calls vary depending on the location of the source of danger, whether it is in the air, trees or on the ground. In the wild, predators include boa constrictors, eagles, hawks and the fossa (a weasel-like animal native to Madagascar).

Growing Up: Red ruffed lemurs produce litters of offspring and can have up to six infants at one time, but more usually twins are produced. They are also unusual in that they do not carry their young on their stomachs or backs but instead leave their babies in a nest of leaves whilst they go off to find food alone.

In zoos where red ruffed lemurs are living near to black and white ruffed lemurs, these two species can understand one another's calls. If one sounds the alarm, the others join in. It's like being able to speak and understand a foreign language. In the wild these two varieties live in different places and do not normally meet each other.

Conservation news: They are restricted to an area of tropical forest in the north east of Madagascar, the Masaola Peninsula. They are threatened by deforestation, hunting for food and trapping for the pet trade. The Masaola National Park was established in 1997 and offers hope for the continued survival of red ruffed lemurs in Madagascar.