MADAGASCAR LEMURS for Kids
The aye-aye is one of the strangest creatures in the world. This nocturnal and reclusive lemur looks as if it had been assembled from a variety of animals. The aye-aye resembles a large house cat but with the face of a ferret or weasel, bat-like ears capable of rotating independently, teeth that grow constantly like those of a rodent, piercing green eyes, and black hands featuring a bony middle finger reminiscent of a dead twig. The aye-aye uses this finger for locating insect larvae that lurk deep inside tree bark, seeds, and fruit. As it climbs along a tree branch, the aye-aye taps the bark while listening for cavities in the wood. When it hears something potentially appetizing beneath the surface, the aye-aye gnaws away at the wood in search of its prize. Today the aye-aye is highly threatened by habitat loss and hunting. In some areas local people believe the aye-aye brings bad luck and will kill the animal whenever they encounter it.
The indri is the largest living lemur. Black and white in color, the indri is famous for its eerie wail that sounds a bit like the song of a humpback whale. The indri feeds on fruit and leaves in the canopy of the rainforests of eastern Madagascar. Today the indri is endangered due to habitat loss.
Verreaux's sifaka lives in the dry forests of western and southern Madagascar where it feeds on leaves, fruit, and flowers. Sifakas are quite vocal with a variety of calls, but they are best known as "dancing lemurs" for their mode of locomotion when they cross open ground. Sifakas do not move about on all fours -- instead they sashay on their hind legs while holding their arms aloft.
The ring-tailed lemur is the best known of lemurs. Ring-tails live in the dry forests of southern and western Madagascar where they feed on fruit, flowers, leaves, and bark.
Mouse lemurs are tiny primates found widely in Madagascar. Nocturnal and feeding on insects, small vertebrates, fruit, and flowers, mouse lemurs are known for their chirping vocalizations and frenetic activity. The pygmy mouse lemur (Microcebus myoxinus) may be the world's smallest primate. Mouse lemurs are being studied for the possible treatment for Alzheimer's disease.
There are seven known species of Lepilemur, none of which are sportive or look like weasels. During the day, you can often spot them in their sleeping holes in tree trunks. At night they are active and quite vocal.
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© Rhett A. Butler / wildmadagascar.org 2008