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Crowned lemurs take their name from the orange ‘marking’ on their head. This has the shape of a crown. Males and females look different. The orange marking on males starts from their eyebrows and runs past their ears to their cheeks. Females have a small, orange crown just above their eyebrows. Males have a black triangle on the top of their head. Crowned lemurs are a species of lemurs. You can recognise them by their pointed snout, wet nose and whiskers.
Crowned lemurs mostly inhabit the dry deciduous forests of northern Madagascar, but they also dwell in various other types of forests, ranging from tropical rainforests to drier savannah forests. This is the only location in the world where crowned lemurs live in the wild.
In the wild, crowned lemurs live in social groups consisting of multiple adult males and females. These larger groups often split into smaller groups when they go searching for food. But some groups also consist only of monogamous pairs and their offspring. Groups usually consist of four to six individuals. Females are dominant. This is particularly striking when crowned lemurs forage for food. The females make it abundantly clear that they are entitled to the tastiest and most nutritious snacks.
Crowned lemurs are primarily active during the day. They groom each other a lot, in order to maintain relationships. They use their teeth to groom and the teeth of their lower jaw serve as a kind of comb. This makes it look like they are licking each other. Besides its social aspect, grooming also serves a hygienic function. Crowned lemurs use scents to communicate with each other. They have olfactory glands on their buttocks. They deposit scents by rubbing these glands against branches, for example. This way, they communicate to other animals where they are, what sex they are and whether they want to mate.
In the wild, crowned lemurs mostly mate in May and June. Four months later, the young are born. During the first months of their life, the young suckle from their mother. They have to go and find their own food after about six or seven months. The animals become sexually mature at about two years of age and that is when they leave their natal group.
Situation in the wild
Crowned lemurs are an officially endangered species in the wild. The forests where they live are being cut down and burned to make room for agriculture. People also hunt crowned lemurs for their meat and because they raid agricultural crops and are therefore regarded as vermin.
Crowned lemurs are relative newcomers to Apenheul. In 2016 a pair moved to our zoo. They had their first offspring in 2018. The crowned lemurs roam freely among the visitors and other lemurs in the Madagascar area at Apenheul.
Apenheul is part of the EEP European breeding programme for crowned lemurs. By working together with other zoos we ensure a genetically healthy and demographically stable population of these dwarf monkeys is maintained in zoos.
- Females are in charge among crowned lemurs. For example, that means that females get first pick of the tastiest snacks or the best sleeping places.
- Crowned lemurs have a birthing season, so all offspring are born at more or less the same time of year. This means the young almost always have plenty of others to play with.