Critically endangered black-and-white ruffed lemurs are native only to Madagascar, where they live in trees and are most active during the day.

Physical Description

As their name suggests, black-and-white ruffed lemurs have black and white bodies. Not all individuals have the same black and white markings, but their hands, feet, tails, faces and heads are typically black, with a distinctive white ruff around their necks. In some individuals, patches of white can appear yellowish. These lemurs also have bright yellow eyes.


Black-and-white ruffed lemurs can reach 20 to 22 inches (50 to 55 centimeters) in body length and an additional 24 to 26 inches (61 to 66 centimeters) in tail length. Adults weigh between 6.6 and 10 pounds (3 and 4.5 kilograms).

Native Habitat

Like all lemur species, black-and-white ruffed lemurs can only be found in Madagascar. They have a patchy distribution in eastern Madagascar, with three subspecies identified along the range.


As is common with lemur species, black and white ruffed lemurs have an array of vocalizations they use to communicate. When alarmed, they produce a deep, barking call and when defending their territory, they emit a wailing howl.

Food/Eating Habits

As a primarily arboreal and quadrupedal species, they often walk, run and leap from branch to branch. Because ruffed lemurs are especially frugivorous, they are also adept at suspending from their feet to help reach ripe fruit hanging from the tree branches. This is known as suspensory movement and is exhibited in this species more so than other lemur species. Social structure consists of small family groups, typically between two and five individuals. Black-and-white ruffed lemurs have been observed in larger groups of up to 16 individuals but those large groups are typically comprised of several smaller groups.

In the wild, they are primarily frugivorous, but will also eat a variety of seeds, leaves and nectar, which they are able to reach with their long tongues. Black-and-white ruffed lemurs are also known as the world's largest pollinators, due to their mutualistic relationship with the traveler's tree (also known as the traveler's palm). They have the unique ability, among pollinators, to open the tree's flowers. While the lemurs benefit by eating the nectar within the flowers, the tree benefits from the pollination that occurs when the pollen sticks to the lemurs' faces and gets transported to the next tree.

At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, they receive a diet consisting of greens, fruits, vegetables and leaf eater biscuits.

Conservation Efforts

The primary threats facing black-and-white ruffed lemurs include logging, slash-and-burn agriculture, mining, development and hunting. Their large size and diurnal activities make them easier targets for hunters and this has put a great pressure on their population.

The population of black-and-white ruffed lemurs is thought to have decreased more than eighty percent over a span of 21 years. With no room for expansion, island ecosystems are fragile, and animals within that ecosystem are highly impacted by human activities, including habitat destruction and fragmentation. While efforts are in place to reintroduce black-and-white ruffed lemurs, reintroduction is not always successful. Protecting and preserving lemur habitats in Madagascar is essential to their survival.

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