Genus and species: Eulemur fulvus rufus
Distribution and Habitat
Red-fronted lemurs live in the deciduous forests of western and eastern Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa.
Red-fronted lemurs are the only subspecies of Eulemur in the western part of its range.
The red-fronted lemur is one of seven subspecies of brown lemur. They are all sexually dichromatic, meaning that males and females have different fur patterns. Males are grey to grey-brown and females are reddish brown. Both sexes have pale patches over their eyes, and the males have a reddish crown.
They are about the size of a house cat, 4.5 to 8 pounds (2 to 4 kg). Their tails can measure as much as 22 inches (56 cm).
This is an arboreal species that moves through the forest canopy quadrupedally (on all fours). It is also capable of leaping.
Red-fronted lemurs live in multimale-multifemale social groups of between four and 18 individuals, although the average group size is seven to eight. Both home and day ranges for this subspecies are very small, usually less than 2.5 acres (0.01 km2). Unlike many prosimians, red-fronted lemurs do not show marked female dominance.
Social bonds within the group are established and reinforced by grooming. Prosimians groom in a unique way. Most prosimians, including red-fronted lemurs, have six lower teeth that stick straight out from their jaw, forming a dental comb that the animals use to groom their fur and the fur of other members of their social group.
As with all true lemurs, olfactory (smell-oriented) communication is extraordinarily important, used in such capacities as transmitting physical state, locomotion, and individual recognition.
Red-fronted lemurs have a few documented calls:
Reproduction and Development
In the wild, female red-fronted lemurs give birth to one offspring in the fall, after a gestation period of approximately four months. Infants cling to their mother's belly for the first three weeks, shifting only to nurse. At approximately three weeks of age, the young lemurs will begin spending time riding, jockey style, on the mother's back, and then will take their first tentative steps. With this hint of independence, infants begin to taste solid food, sampling bits of whatever the other members of their group are eating. Nursing continues, in a steady decline in importance in the infant’s diet, until the infant is weaned at approximately four to five months of age. Males have been known to assist the females with child rearing.
Red-fronted lemurs can live 20 to 25 years.
Diet in the Wild
They are mainly folivorous, or leaf-eating, lemurs. They can also eat flowers, fruit, and bark. However, red-fronted lemurs have very adaptable diets, shifting to invertebrates and fungi when plant matter is scarce.
They are fed a mixture of fruits and vegetables and Marion leaf-eater biscuits.
Each animal has an annual physical, including a dental checkup. Fecals are checked for parasites every January and June.
The National Zoo's Red-fronted Lemurs
The Zoo is not actively breeding lemurs. These animals have well represented genes and the SSP does not need them as part of the breeding population. The Zoo currently houses two red-fronted lemurs, one male and one female on Lemur Island. They arrived from the Duke Primate Research Center in September 2001.
Forest destruction is the primary threat to the survival of red-fronted lemurs. In the west, forests are being cleared for pasture, while in the east, the forests are burned for slash-and-burn agriculture and cut for charcoal production. Red-fronted lemurs are found in several protected areas in Madagascar, and may be one of the more protected subspecies of brown lemur.
Brown Lemur (Eulemur fulvus), 2000, Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin – Madison, (link no longer active)
The Lemur Database,
Red-fronted Lemurs, 1999, Duke University Primate Research Center (link no longer active)
Ring-tailed Lemurs, 1999, Duke University Primate Research Center
Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta), 2000, Wisconsin Regional
Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin – Madison
The Variety of Living Lemurs, 1999, Duke University
Primate Research Center
What are Prosimian Primates?, 2001, Duke University Primate Research Center, (link no longer active)