Lemur (Black Lemur) / Eulemur macaco

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Baby black lemurs are all born with grey black fur

The females begin to develop their characteristic brown colour after a few weeks

DZG co-ordinates the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) and produces the European studbook for black lemurs

Black lemurs are said to exhibit sexual dichromatism because males and females are different colours. Their fur is luxuriant and is black in males and tawny brown in females. Their ears are lavishly tufted with long hair, which is black in males and white in females. The variation in appearance is so striking that for many years males and females were thought to be different species.

The black lemur lives in primary and secondary rainforest where it forages during several periods spread through the night and day (cathemeral). It lives in groups ranging from 2 to 15 members, with equal numbers of males and females. Females are dominant over males, although intergroup fighting is rare.

The diet consists primarily of fruit, but flowers, leaves, fungi and some invertebrates – and in the dry season nectar – are eaten.

They will also bite on poisonous millipedes. The toxins are usually non-fatal to the lemurs and once the millipedes release their toxins in self-defence the lemurs rub them on their own fur. It is thought the toxins act as an insect repellent.

Breeding is seasonal and controlled by the amount of daylight in black lemur populations with mating taking place from April in Madagascar.

Males fight for receptive females who give birth between September and November to a single baby or, occasionally, twins.

The gestation period is 125-135 days. Newborns hitch a ride on mother by clinging to the fur on her abdomen. At one month old they switch to riding on her back.