Perhaps the most familiar, and endearing, of Madagascar’s endemic creatures are the lemurs, one of the first primate families to evolve and one that is now restricted to Madagascar.
They display a range of interesting behaviour, from singing like a whale (the indri) to sashaying across the sand like a ballet dancer (the sifaka). The name is derived from the Latin word “lemures”, meaning “spirits” – a name they earned due to the ghostly vocalisations, reflective eyes and nocturnal habits of some species.
Today, Madagascar is home to about 60 taxa of lemurs, ranging in size from the 30g pygmy mouse lemur to the 70cm-high indri. All these species are endemic to Madagascar, giving the country the second highest number of primate species in the world. All the lemur species are endangered, mainly because of habitat destruction and hunting.
Madagascar’s lemurs are of global importance. Although only one of 92 countries with wild primate populations, Madagascar is solely responsible for 21% of all primate genera and 36% of all primate families, making it the single highest priority for primate conservation.
Visitors can take lemur-watching tours to some of the very best wildlife reserves, such as the Berenty Reserve, Ranomafana National Park, Isalo National Park and Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. And while the lemurs will no doubt take centre stage, you can be assured that there will be a supporting cast of birds, reptiles and other wildlife.