The species lemuridae has staring eyes (which glow reddish in the dark) and silent, secretive habits. Lemurs are the most primitive primates, once ranging throughout the world, but now confined primarily to the island of Madagascar.
The Ruffed lemur is the largest of the true lemurs, measuring when full grown, four feet in length including the long tail of about two feet. The fur is long and soft, and the ears are hidden by a ruff of hair. The color pattern varies and may be different on the right and left sides of a specimen.
The Ruffed lemur lives in eastern Madagascar. It is a forest species found in humid rain forests.
Black and white ruffed lemurs live in groups of two to five individuals, thought to be an adult mated pair and their young. Greetings are very ceremonious involving reciprocal grooming. They mark their territory by screaming and by scent. They rub leaves, branches or fruit with their palms to leave a distinctive odor.
During the day the Ruffed lemur sleeps in a hollow tree curled up into a ball. It is a nimble climber, most active at dusk and during the first part of the night, when it forages for fruit. It normally progresses by walking or running on larger branches, and leaps from tree to tree. It rarely descends to the ground.
In November, the female produces one to three young in a nest in a hole in a tree or on a forked branch, which she lines with her own fur. The gestation period is 99 to 102 days.
Over half of the births are twins, and the remainder are single or triplets. The young are initially carried in the mouth of the female and are often deposited in a convenient place while she forages. By five weeks of age the young can climb to the tops of trees. Weaning occurs at around 135 days. Females may become pregnant when 20 months old. Captive lemurs have been known to live nineteen years.
The Ruffed lemur is listed as endangered by the USDI (1980) and CITES. It is reportedly declining because of human destruction of its forest habitat, and commercial exportation.