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Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs are prosimians. You can recognise them by their pointed nose with a wet tip. They have brown, woolly fur and scent glands on their forearms, around their armpits and around their anus. With these glands they mark the area to make it clear for other animals that it’s their territory.
In the wild, Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs live on the African island Madagascar. This is the only place in the world where you can find them in the wild. They live in swamps, reedbeds and papyrus fields around the Alaotra lake, the largest lake in Madagascar.
Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs live in small family groups. A group consists of an adult male and a female together with their young. The females are dominant, as is the case with most prosimians. They have the first right to the tastiest bites. The males have to wait to see what’s left for them.
Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs communicate in various ways. For example, they use scent to mark their territory. They also use sound to communicate. They create cohesion in the group by growling softly. Is there danger lurking? In that case they let out a loud warning scream. They shout something sounding like ‘creeee’. Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs maintain their social connections by grooming each other. They do this with their bottom teeth, which form a sort of comb.
Females can reproduce from the age of two. The babies are born with grey fur. In the first two weeks, the babies need all the help they can get from their mothers. After that, they become more independent. When Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs have babies, they change into proper pit bulls and protect their young fiercely. When the males are roughly three years old, they leave the group in which they were born. Females do that sooner, roughly at the age of two. They go out to look for another male or female to start their own family.
Situation in the wild
In the wild, the Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs aren’t doing well. In 2018, they were in the top 25 most endangered primate species of the world! Among other reasons, this is the result of their habitat disappearing. The local population on Madagascar is very poor. They burn the papyrus fields where the Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs live in order to grow rice, for example.
There are various (sub)species of bamboo lemurs. The species living at Apenheul is a rare sight. In the whole of Europe, there are only about 55 of these Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs that can be admired in zoos! The Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs at Apenheul share their enclosure with another prosimian species, the crowned sifakas.
Apenheul is a partner in the European breeding programme (EEP) for Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs. By working together with other zoos we can maintain a reserve population of this species in zoos.
- Their name might lead you to believe they also eat bamboo. Yet they don’t in the wild, because bamboo no longer grows along the Alaotra lake. In het wild, Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs mainly eat reed and papyrus. At Apenheul, bamboo is part of their diet
- A funny sight: Lac Alaotra bamboo lemur mothers carry their babies around in their mouths during the first weeks.