Varecia variegata

KINGDOM: Animalia (Animals)

PHYLUM: Chordata (Possessing a notochord)

CLASS: Mammalia (Mammals)

ORDER: Primates

FAMILY: Lemuridae (Lemurs)

SUB-FAMILY: Lemurinae (Lemurs)

GENUS: Varecia (Ruffed Lemurs)

SPECIES: Varecia variegata (Black and White Ruffed Lemur)


Black and White Ruffed Lemurs are endemic to the island of Madagascar. They are found primarily in the eastern rainforest regions.
As their name indicates, the hair around the cheeks and under the chin forms a “ruff”. The face and top of the head of the black and white ruffed lemur is usually black. Patterns of white fur distribution on the body vary along the species’ range. In the northern parts, the coat tends to be more black, whereas in southern areas, white dominates. Males may be slightly larger than females.

Black and white ruffed lemurs prefer high canopied forests. This lemur is typically found in lowland to mid-altitude rainforests. They have large home ranges.

Black and white ruffed lemurs are Frugivorous (fruit eaters) and can feed on 80 to 132 different plant species. They will also eat nectar, flowers, and seeds, which their long tongue can reach easily. This species is known as pollinators for their symbiotic relationship with the traveller’s tree (Ravenala madagascariensis).

They have a variety of social structures, from pairs to large groups. A rare occurence, black and white ruffed lemurs demonstrate the behaviour of female dominance. This is often asserted during feeding times, as the cost of caring for and carrying offspring means that females need more food than males. Dominant females lead foraging and feeding and eat more than the rest of the group.This species is generally polygamous, but may be found in monagamous pairs or loosely organised groups. Males also play a role in the care of offspring, especially in smaller groups. Unlike most other lemurs, black and white ruffed lemurs build nests for their young from twigs and leaves, about 10-20 meters above ground.

Black and white ruffed lemurs have very large home ranges as most of their time is spent foraging.The gestation period for these lemurs is three months. Females commonly give birth to twins and triplets, and litters can be as big as six. Young are carried in the mother’s mouth unlike other lemur species, which typically carry them on their bellies. Other members of the group will watch over the young while the mother forages. Young become independent at four months and mature at 20 months. They can live up to 20 years.The black and white ruffed lemur is preyed upon by goshawks, fossa, mongoose and humans; the greatest threat being poachers and hungry men looking to feed their families. Habitat distruction due to logging and farming is also a major threat.

Did you know?

  • These lemurs have several different vocalisation types. Communication is used to keep in touch during group movement, communication between different groups and alarm group members to presence of visitors.
  • Females eat more flowers during breeding season
  • The name “lemur” means “ghost” in Latin. Early explorers thought ghosts were calling in the forest!
  • Along with the red ruffed lemur, the black and white ruffed lemur is the largest member of the Lemuridae family


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