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Their name might lead you to think that all blue-eyed black lemurs have blue eyes, but that’s not the case. Their eye colour can range from pale green to grey (and everything in between). The males have black fur, the females light to dark brown. Blue-eyed black lemurs have a wet nose with whiskers, a grooming claw on their second toe and a relatively small brain: all of which are characteristics of prosimians.
In het wild, blue-eyed black lemurs live on the African island Madagascar. To be precise, on the peninsula Sahamalaza, in northwest Madagascar. This is the only place on earth where blue-eyed black lemurs exist in the wild. They live in primary and secondary subtropical humid forests.
Blue-eyed black lemurs live in groups of two to fifteen animals. A group usually consists of one or two adult females and often a few younger females. The females are in charge, as is the case with most prosimians. The males often live at the edge of a group and often switch groups.
Blue-eyed black lemurs communicate a lot through smells. By leaving their scent behind they mark their territory, among other things. Their scent also says something about their age, sex and whether they’re looking for a mate. Both males and females use, among other glands, the scent gland near their anus for this. The males also have glands on their wrists. They rub branches to leave behind their scent.
In the wild, blue-eyed black lemurs mate from April to June. The babies are usually born in autumn. The babies are born with grey-black fur. The mothers are very protective of their young. They can even be very aggressive towards their own group in the first weeks. During the first three weeks, the babies hang on tightly to their mothers. After three weeks they take their first careful steps. Slowly but surely the other group members are allowed to come closer. During this period the baby also carefully tries some solid food.
Situation in the wild
Blue-eyed black lemurs are threatened with extinction. The poor inhabitants of Madagascar clear the forests where blue-eyed black lemurs live to make room for agriculture. Blue-eyed black lemurs are also hunted. In 2017, Apenheul sent a team to Madagascar to investigate the population. There are still a few thousand individuals, but most of them live in areas that aren’t protected.
Apenheul Nature Conservation Fund
The Apenheul Nature Conservation Fund supports an important project to protect the blue-eyed black lemurs on Madagascar. We train farmers to grow rice in a sustainable way and also organise eco trips to Madagascar. Tourists generate income (money) for the local population. That means that they no longer have to cut down trees but still have enough income. A win-win situation!
Blue-eyed black lemurs are very rare in zoos, so it’s extra special that you can admire them here at Apenheul! Also special is that in the past years more blue-eyed black lemurs have been born at Apenheul: Arovy in 2017 and Reny in 2018. Unfortunately, their mother, New Hope, wasn’t able to feed her babies herself, so the caretakers bottle-fed the little ones. We prefer not to do this but made an exception for the blue-eyed black lemurs. They are so vulnerable that every infant can influence the survival of the species.
Apenheul is a partner in the European breeding programme (EEP) for blue-eyed black lemurs. By working together with other international zoos we can ensure that the blue-eyed black lemurs continue to exist in zoos.
- Blue-eyed black lemurs often groom each other. They do that to maintain social contacts with each other, but also to keep each other’s fur clean. They use their bottom teeth, which form a sort of comb.
- Blue eyes are very rare in the world of primates. Apart from blue-eyed black lemurs, only some spider monkey species have blue eyes.