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Jeunes makis cattas © G. Proust

Ring-tailed lemur

With its long ringed tail and its black mask, the ring-tailed lemur, Lemur catta, is certainly the best-known of the Lemurs. Dwelling in trees as well as on the ground, it lives in a group led by an adult female.


Class, order & family :

Mammalia, Primates, Lemuridae

Genus :


Species :


Lifespan :

20 years (27 years in captivity)

Height and weight :

45 cm long + 58-cm tail; 2.2 kg at the most

Gestation :

~ 140 days, one baby, sometimes 2

Natural habitat :

dry forests, savannah shrublands

Diet :

fruit, leaves, flowers, nectar, insects

Native region :

Southern Madagascar

Conservation programme :


IUCN status: 

EN, endangered

Way of life

The ring-tailed lemurs live in groups of around twenty individuals which are led by a dominant adult female, as is the case with most lemurs. She leads the group when they are on the move and has priority access to food. Their diet is varied and depends on the season: flowers and fruit, young leaves, sap, all kinds of insects, spiders and their webs and succulent plants in the dry season.

Births take place almost all at the same time, when food resources are at their most plentiful. From the age of three days, the young ring-tailed lemurs, who until that point were attached to their mother’s stomachs, are able to jump on her back or another close female’s back.

Distinguishing features

Although it is excellent at climbing and jumping, the ring-tailed lemur is the most terrestrial of the lemurs. It moves on all fours, its long tail standing up straight in the air, serving as a reference point for all the other members of the group. Communication is not just visual, they also communicate by using sounds and they have a wide repertoire of calls, from mewing to growling. Marking plays a crucial role in defining territory. While all adults mark their territory with urine and faeces, only the males possess scented glands on their wrists and chests, which are used to mark out various substrates along their path. They even impregnate their tails with these secretions, which they then rhythmically wave at their rivals to “project” their scent. At the end of this duel, the most “embarrassed” leaves...


Many lemurs, including the ring-tailed lemur, have a “toothcomb”: incisors and canines are grooved and forward-facing; this toothcomb is used to look for food and for grooming fur.

Ring-tailed lemurs sleep in the trees, huddled together. From daybreak, following a cool night, they sit with their arms open to warm themselves up under the sun’s rays.

Jeunes makis cattas © G. Proust
Jeunes makis cattas © G. Proust