Red Ruffed Lemur Facts and Their Amazing Communication Skills

Step into the enchanting realm of the red ruffed lemur, one of the most special lemur species. It’s a cool primate with a rockstar-like mane and a love for sweets that can match your craziest cravings. Despite their adorable appearance, these lemurs are social powerhouses, and their lives are full of surprises. Embark on a journey with us as we delve into the fascinating and fun facts about these remarkable species.

Red ruffed lemur
Scientific name: Varecia rubra
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Lemuridae
Genus: Varecia

They’re one of the biggest lemur species

Within the diverse array of lemurs, the ruffed lemurs distinguish themselves among the largest species. It has a size of about 53 cm in body length, accompanied by notably lengthy tails. Despite their substantial appearance, their weight is comparable to that of a typical house cat, ranging from 3.3 to 3.6 kg.

The red ruffed lemur adaptions
The red ruffed lemur characteristics

Despite their large size, lemurs are renowned for their small heads. Among primates, a group recognized for their relatively large brains, lemurs possess the smallest brains.

Red ruffed lemurs live up to their name with a vibrant coat of chestnut or orange-red fur, accentuated by black markings on their face, tail, chest, and limbs. Additionally, there’s a hint of white fur on their head, hands, or feet.

Red ruffed lemur habitat

The red ruffed lemur can only be found on the island of Madagascar, specifically within the rainforests of the Masoala Peninsula in the northeastern region. It has a remarkably restricted range, stretching only to the east of the Antainambalana River, where it meets the territory of their closely related counterparts, the black and white-ruffed lemurs.

Luckily, a considerable part of their living environment is situated within the confines of Masoala National Park, the largest protected area in Madagascar.

The red ruffed lemur survive in Madagascar

In spite of their constrained habitat, these lemurs demonstrate impressive resilience. They have adeptly adjusted to their particular environment and contribute significantly to the intricate ecosystem of the Masoala Peninsula. Nonetheless, their restricted range and reliance on protected zones render them susceptible to challenges such as climate change and habitat loss.


Red ruffed lemurs are the fruit lovers in the lemur world. Their diet consists primarily of fruits (75-95%). While they eat various types of fruits, figs are their most favorite ones. Sadly, the lemurs’ favorite fruits can cause them problems. Loggers often choose the same big fruit trees that lemurs need. This puts them at risk because they might lose their food supply and not be as healthy.

Besides fruits, these herbivorous species also love nectar. To consume nectar, they use their elongated snouts to access the depths of flowers. During the dry season, these animals switch their diet and consume leaves and seeds.

The red ruffed lemur is eating

The diet of red ruffed lemurs plays a crucial role in the rainforest ecosystem. As they consume fruits, they ingest sizable seeds that pass through their digestive system undigested. These seeds are subsequently scattered across the forest floor in their droppings. This process functions as a natural “fertilizer,” fostering the growth and regeneration of plants.

When these lemurs feed on nectar, the pollen adhering to their fur is transferred from one plant to another. This makes them crucial pollinators for the rainforests of Madagascar.

The red ruffed lemurs face threats from a few formidable predators like fossas (Madagascar’s native weasel-like carnivores), raptors, and even humans.

They’re masters in communication

Red-ruffed lemurs are really good at communication. They use at least 12 different sounds to chat with their lemur friends and figure out what’s happening around them. These sounds help them talk to each other in groups, protect their territory, and warn everyone about possible danger from predators.

Their alarm calls are particularly fascinating, as they adapt to the specific threat. Even though they haven’t faced venomous snakes in their natural habitat, the lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center have surprisingly come up with a special warning sound just for copperhead snakes.

Additionally, these lemurs don’t just talk to their own kind. They can also understand the warning sounds made by their close relatives – black-and-white ruffed lemurs, even though they live in different parts of Madagascar.

They are social animals

Red ruffed lemurs are fascinating creatures with unique social dynamics and communication skills. They are active during the day (diurnal) and primarily live in the treetops of Madagascar. They move around on all fours and sometimes dangle from their back feet to grab food.

They live together in different-sized groups, usually between 2 and 30 members. In the wet season, when food is abundant, they form big groups of around 30 members. But in the dry season, when food is hard to find, smaller groups go out to find food resources. In these groups, the females are in charge.

The area where they live changes depending on how many of them are in a group. If there are more lemurs, they need a larger space, around 60 hectares. They use scents to mark and protect their territories.

2 red ruffed lemurs on the tree

As mentioned above, these lemurs are highly vocal. Their loud calls help them stay connected with other group members, even if they are far apart.

Besides communication, they also spend a lot of time grooming each other as a way to connect their social lives. This helps them become closer as friends and keeps their group clean.

Red ruffed lemurs, just like other lemurs, have a special tool called a tooth comb. It’s made up of their closely packed lower incisors. This comb is used to untangle knots and get rid of stuff stuck in their thick fur. The tooth comb is thought to help spread mouth fluids onto the fur, possibly for social bonding and communication using scent.

Risky Reproduction

Red-ruffed lemurs have somewhat risky reproductive strategies. This makes life harder for them. The mating season of this species takes place between May and July, with births peaking in September and October.
These lemurs go all-in with their young.

After mating, females will go through a gestation period of about 102 days. They then give birth to a litter of about 2 – 6 offspring, which takes a lot of energy. Unlike other lemurs that carry their babies, red-ruffed lemurs put their babies in safe nests high up in trees for the first few weeks. These nests can be 30 to 60 feet (10 to 20 meters) above the ground.

The red ruffed lemur mom and her offspring
The mother is protecting its child

This strategy allows the mothers to go out and find food, but it also makes the babies easy targets for predators and accidents. Sadly, about 65% of the babies don’t make it past their first three months. The young who can survive through all the risks develop quickly. After 1 – 2 weeks, their moms take them to different trees while looking for food. While the females give birth and take care of the young, the males will protect the nest when females are not around.

By the time they are 3-4 weeks old, the young lemurs can try to follow their moms on their own. This quick growth helps them keep up with their lifestyle sooner.

This high-risk, high-reward strategy works when things are steady. However, it becomes dangerous with habitat loss and changing ecosystems. Unfortunately, this is happening right now. The lifespan of red ruffed lemurs lasts for about 15 – 20 years in the wild.

They’re endangered

The red ruffed lemur is listed as a critically endangered species. Its population is about 1000 – 10000 individuals, however, this number is decreasing. Their existence is threatened by a combination of human activities and natural challenges.

Habitat loss: The place where they live, called Masoala National Park, is being destroyed. People are cutting down trees, especially the ones that make expensive wood like rosewood.

Hunting: These species are hunted for food and to sell as pets, which puts them in even more danger. Even though the park tries to keep them safe, lemurs that live outside the park are still in danger.

Climate change: The weather is changing, and big storms are happening more often and stronger. This affects their habitat and food source.

Predators: Although hawks and fossas can be a bit risky, the real danger comes from humans.

Keep in mind that these lemurs have really important roles in the ecosystem. They help spread seeds around, which helps a lot in making sure the forest grows back. It’s not just about saving a special kind of lemur; it’s about keeping the whole ecosystem healthy.



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We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

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