Friday, October 12, 2012

The Great Bamboo Lemur

         Prolemur simus is the largest of the bamboo lemurs. A dense olive-brown coat covers the rounded body, whilst the under parts and tail are grey-brown in colour with a russet tinge. As well as its large size, the greater bamboo lemur can be recognised by the prominent pale grey or white ear tufts. However, a recently discovered population of this species has a strikingly different deep golden-red coat, and no ear tufts. The blunt muzzles of bamboo lemurs give their faces a more rounded appearance than other members of the family. They have relatively long tails and long back legs for leaping vertically amongst the trees of their forest habitat.

Did You Know
            It is not known how the Greater Bamboo Lemur’s metabolism deals with the cyanide found in the bamboo shoots which is their only food, their typical daily dose would be enough to kill humans.

Size relative to a 6-ft human

Scientific Classification


Other Names

Broad-nosed Gentle Lemur, Greater Bamboo Lemur
Grand Hapalémur, Hapalémur Simien
Lemur Cariancho

          The Greater Bamboo Lemur is classified under Critically Endangered in the IUCN Redlist.

            On current evidence, this species may have the smallest population size of any lemur on the island. Only about 12 groups, totalling less than 100 individuals, have been documented in over 20 years of regional surveys. During 400 days of census work in Ranomafana, only three groups in total have been detected (with a maximum of 20 individuals confirmed).

            Greater bamboo lemurs are found in primary and degraded eastern humid forests of Madagascar, and are usually found in areas with large woody bamboo. Occasionally they are found in degraded habitats without bamboo. The range of forests in which they occur ranges from large protected areas down to small forest fragments. The newly discovered population at Torotorofotsy inhabit marshland, a new habitat type for the species. The greater bamboo lemur has been sighted at elevations ranging from 121 m to 1600 m (397.0 to 5249.3 ft).

            Sub fossil remains confirm that this species once had a widespread distribution in Madagascar that covered the northern, north-western, central and eastern portions of Madagascar. Today, the species has a much diminished range in the south-eastern and south-central rainforests of Madagascar and is estimated that P. simus now occupies only about 1-4% of its historical range, reported confirmed sightings of Greater Bamboo Lemurs in only 11 of 70 survey localities.

          This species is associated with forests abundant in giant bamboo. It subsists predominantly on bamboo, but its diet includes seven plant species representing three different families. In Ranomafana National Park, the bamboo Cathariostachys madagascariensis can account for as much as 95% of the diet, with shoots, young and mature leaves, and pith being consumed. Observations of wild populations and animals in captivity suggest that this species is cathemeral, active both during the day and at night throughout the year. They live in polygamous groups that can occupy home ranges of 40-60 ha or more. Mating begins in May or June, with infants typically born in October and November. Females usually give birth to a single young each year.

            The rainforests of Madagascar are being widely cleared by slash-and-burn techniques and this habitat destruction is one of the major threats to the survival of the greater bamboo lemur. Bamboo is also being cleared in some areas, and this lemur is targeted by hunters in other regions. The known range of the greater bamboo lemur is highly restricted and this implies further threats to survival.

Conservation Measures
            The greater bamboo lemur is protected within two areas in Madagascar, however, even within Ranomafana National Park the native trees are being exploited and this species is at risk. Further research into these little-known lemurs is urgently needed and more extensive surveys of the area may well reveal further isolated populations in need of protection.

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