Explore the Wild | Lemurs

Fast Facts

Habitat and Range

Wild lemurs are only found in Madagascar and the Comoro islands (off the east coast of Africa). There are many species, adapted to different habitats, from tropical rainforests to dry deserts.

Average Size

16 inches long plus a 22-inch tail

Life Cycle

Lemurs have a fixed breeding season towards the end of the dry season. This is so the young can be born in the wet season when more food is available. The young are born covered with fur and with their eyes open at birth, but they are still quite helpless. Lemurs can live 20-25 years in the wild.

Six lemurs live at the Museum. The ring-tailed lemurs roam an interactive playground featuring roots, large branches and tall trees, as long as it's warm enough outside. The red-ruffed lemurs stay inside a temperature-controlled enclosure featuring a large viewing window. The lemur exhibit features a computer kiosk that identifies the lemurs’ habits, habitats and social behaviors and introduces lemur biologists. A zoom camera provides close-up views of these highly active, playful animals. 

The Lemurs that Live at the Museum

We have two species of lemurs:

Ring-Tailed Lemurs (Lemur catta)

Arrived October 24, 2005
Ring-tailed are the most terrestrial lemurs and the most intensely studied. Males have scent glands on their wrists and are known for “stink fighting.” Troop size is 3–24 animals. Ring-tailed lemurs mark their territory using scent glands, and they spend more time on the ground than any other lemur. Females stay in the natal troop while males migrate. Back is gray, limbs and belly lighter, extremities white; rings around eyes and muzzle black; tail banded black and white.
  • Cassandra: Female, born 3/23/94
  • Satyrus: Male, born 4/11/97 (Cassandra is his mom)

Red Ruffed Lemurs (Varecia variegata rubra)

Arrived January 18, 2006
Red Ruffed lemurs get their name from the thick ruff around their necks. They are very vocal, using a series of at least twelve different sounds to warn each other of predators, such as snakes, eagles, and humans. They have a patch of white fur on the nape of the neck and may have additional white patches on the feet, digits or mouth. They also have acute senses of smell, vision and hearing.

  • Cynthia: female, born 3/30/81 (She has the shortest tail)
  • Iris: female, born 5/11/92 (Cynthia is her mom)
  • Jethys: female, born 5/11/92 (Cynthia is her mom. Jethys has the longest tail)

My Life. My Science.

Animal Dept. Director Sherry Samuels

Leaping Lemurs? Nope, Ladders needed!


In late spring of 2006, the Keepers who were closing for the day paged Animal Department Director Sherry Samuels around 6pm. They told her that all three Ringtail Lemurs were up in the tall pines. The lemurs would come down to a branch about 20 feet above the ground but no farther. She told them to set a ladder up next to the tree and that she'd come in so that they could go home.

Sure enough, Sherry found the lemurs up in the big pine trees. She climbed the ladder to try to get them for a couple hours, but the closer she got, the farther up they would go. Since the night was warm and pitch black, she decided to let things go for the evening and arranged for Keepers to come in very early the next morning.

The next morning, the lemurs again scampered down the pine to the same small branch but would go no farther. This time, the keepers raised the ladder high into the air and the Ringtails immediately jumped on, climbed down, and ran into the house! This happened a handful of times over their first spring and summer at the Museum, and each time the Keepers would get out the ladder. Just like with people, it was easier for them to climb up than down!


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