Lemur, Ring-tailed

Lemur catta

Face is white with black markings-almost like a mask.  Coat is grey, with limbs and belly being lighter.  Their tails are banned with blackand white.  The body length is 15-17 inches long, with the tail being 21-24 inches. The weight range is between 5-7.5 lbs.








South Madagascar (dry areas)


Mixed deciduous forests

Life Expectancy

16 years

Sexual Maturity

19-20 months


Flowers, fruit, leaves, bark, herbs and figs in the wild. In the Zoo, they are fed monkey chow, oranges, apples, grapes, bananas, celery, cucumber and romaine.


IUCN – Endangered, CITES - Appendix I, AZA - Green SSP


Social Structure: Ring-tailed Lemurs live in multi-male, multi-female troops ranging in size from 12-24. It is a female dominated society with all females able to assert dominance over all males. Both genders have their own hierarchy which is clear when the troop is on the move; higher ranking members in the front and lower members in the rear. Females exhibit close bonds with other related females but not with unrelated members. Male offspring will emigrate from their natal group after several years, while females will remain. Reproduction Breeding is seasonal and, in Madagascar, occurs in April and lasts for about two weeks. The breeding season is marked by changes in day length, therefore at the Jacksonville Zoo breeding season begins in late November. A female may be in estrous for only one day out of the year. After a gestation period of 134 to 136 days, one offspring is usually born. While higher ranking males have a greater chance of breeding due to proximity to females, it is common males of any rank to breed. Parental Care Immediately after birth the infant clings to its mother’s belly. After just a few days the newborn begins to move about on its mother, and after only several weeks it will move to her back. Mother will often allow related females and other mothers to groom the infant. Communication Ring-tailed lemurs have scent glands on their forearms and anal region that are quite odiferous. These glands are used for scent marking with conveys territorial markers and other signals. Ring-tailed Lemurs are also highly vocal. They employ numerous vocalizations which range from threat warnings, to group cohesion calls used while moving about.


Scent glands on forearms are used to mark their tails and territory. The long tail is used for balance. Limbs are designed for leaping through the trees. The forelimbs are shorter than the hind limbs. Palms and soles of feet are bare and ridged to assure a firm grip in trees and on rocks. Hands have a pseudo-opposable thumb that allows lemurs to grasp items. Feet are equipped with psuedo-opposable big toes also for gripping. The second toe on each foot is equipped with a specialized “toilet” claw that is used during grooming. Dentition in lemurs is specialized for diet and mutual grooming. Central incisors are widely separated and lower canines project forward to form what is known as a dental comb. During grooming, this “comb” is used like a human comb to separate and clean between hairs. Black and white rings on the tail may serve as a visual communication tool when the troop moves through dark forest or open grassland areas.

Special Interests

Lemur catta in Latin suggests that this type of lemur appears to look like a cross between a raccoon and a cat. Lemur is an ancient Roman word that pertains to spirits of the dead. The Island of Madagascar houses the results of a gigantic “natural experiment” in which ancestral lemurs were isolated at least 50 million years ago and gradually diversified into the modern array of over 40 species (including several large bodied species which are sadly documented only by their subfossil remains). As such, lemurs have retained numerous primitive characteristics while at the same time developing many features in parallel to the monkeys and apes of the major southern landmasses. The ring-tailed lemur is the only primate on Madagascar to make extensive use of the ground.


It is believed that when European explorers heard unique howls and saw eyes peering through the trees at them, they named these creatures “lemurs,” meaning, “ghost.”


Loss of habitat is the largest threat to Ring-tailed Lemurs.

Jacksonville Zoo History

The first ring-tailed lemurs to arrive came in May of 1978. This species has successfully bred here.


Great Apes Exhibit Area