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Lému vari © MNHN - F-G Grandin

Black-and-white ruffed lemur

The black-and-white ruffed lemur, Varecia v. variegata, like a number of lemurs, all native to Madagascar, is in danger of extinction.


Class, order & family :

Mammalia, Primates, Lemuridae

Genus :


Species :


Subspecies :


Lifespan :

20 years

Height and weight :

50 cm long + 60-cm tail; 4 kg at the most

Gestation :

~ 100 days, 1 to 3 babies

Natural habitat :


Diet :

fruit, leaves, insects

Native region :

Eastern Madagascar

Conservation programme :


IUCN status: 

CR, critically endangered

Way of life

Black-and-white ruffed lemurs live in small family groups of 2 to 4 individuals. They move around the tops of tall trees (the canopy) and rarely come down to the ground. They are difficult to spot, however, we can hear them from up to one kilometre away, as they signal to each other and mark out their territory using deafening choruses of shrieks which are echoed by neighbouring groups. A number of other calls complete their repertoire: grunts, coughs and whines all have a meaning, they can serve as a warning for the presence of a predator, or they can gather the group together, appease others following a dispute...

Black-and-white ruffed lemurs regularly give birth to twins or triplets! Females are the only lemurs with three pairs of teats (the others have one pair) and to not carry their young at birth. The mother leaves them in a rudimentary nest for one to three weeks, then, when she goes to feed, she carries them with her in her mouth and hides them in the tree foliage. At around two or three months of age, the young lemurs begin to follow the group.

Distinguishing features

The black-and-white ruffed lemur, which is the size of a large cat, is easily recognisable thanks to its coat: its tail, legs, shoulders, haunch, face and snout are black while its back and sides are white, as are its ears and the collar surrounding its cheeks.

In order to catch fruit, it is able to suspend itself using its hind legs.


Its role in pollinating certain plants is a significant one: by looking for nectar inside the flower, the pollen sticks to its snout and is then transported to other flowers.

Prized for its flesh or used in traditional medicine, the black-and-white ruffed lemur is the most hunted of all the lemurs, easily identifiable by its calls. It is also a victim of forest destruction, which isolates populations. They are found in around ten protected areas (national parks, nature reserves, etc.) Several reintroductions were carried out in the 1990s and some of these individuals successfully integrated into wild groups and reproduced.

Jeune lémur vari © MNHN - P. Roux
Lémurs varis © G. Proust
Lému vari © MNHN - F-G Grandin