Primate Safaris - Lemurs
Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, is famous for its lemurs, a family of primates that is unique to this hot, subtropical island. Lemurs have been described as looking like a cat crossed with a squirrel and a dog, and they exhibit a fascinating range of behaviour from whale-like singing to ballet dancing.
Lemurs are ‘prosimian’ primates instead of ‘anthropoid’ primates like humans and monkeys. Lemur like creatures first evolved around 60 million years ago, some 40 million years before the anthropoids. Many species of lemur are nocturnal, and they use their sense of smell to recognise each other and to identify food, and their families are dominated and defended by females.
Madagascar is home to 33 species of lemurs ranging in size from the 25-gram pygmy mouse lemur to the indri indri. All are endemic to Madagascar and new species are still being discovered; some researchers think that 10-20 new species of lemurs may be discovered over the next 30 years or so.
Lemurs are identified as either nocturnal or diurnal species; nocturnal species are generally smaller than diurnal ones. All are vocal to some extent, with sounds that range from the grunting and swearing of sifaka and brown lemurs to the chirping of mouse lemurs to the bizarre wailing call of the indri indri.
Humans did not reach Madagascar until about 2,000 years ago, but soon caused significant damage to the island and its native wildlife, rendering at least 15 species extinct. The largest species suffered the most and today the largest remaining lemur is the indri indri. This would have been dwarfed by the gorilla-sized species that originally lived on the island. Currently all lemurs are endangered species; they lack the intelligence and adaptability of many anthropoids, and are highly vulnerable to loss of habitat and hunting as a result.
Aardvark Safaris arrange trips to Madagascar to suit the individual wishes of each client. We can design an itinerary to see specific species or as many as possible.
The best time to visit Madagascar is between September and November which coincides with the baby lemur season and offers warm dry weather.