Animal Info - Greater Bamboo Lemur

(Other Names: Broad-nosed Bamboo Lemur, Broad-nosed Gentle Lemur, Grand Hapalémur, Greater Gentle Lemur, Hapalémur Simien, Lemur Cariancho, Varibolo)

Hapalemur (Prolemur) simus

Status: Critically Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Taxonomy, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Size and Weight, Habitat, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Dispersal, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Density and Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Greater Bamboo Lemur #1 (48 Kb JPEG) (SUNY - Stony Brook); Greater Bamboo Lemur #2 (28 Kb JPEG) (SUNY - Stony Brook); Greater Bamboo Lemur #3 (84 Kb JPEG) (SUNY - Stony Brook)

The greater bamboo lemur is a medium-large, rotund lemur, the largest of the three bamboo lemur species. Its most distinctive feature is its pair of large, prominent white ear-tufts. The head and body length of the greater bamboo lemur is about 45 cm (18") and it weighs up to 2.4 kg (5.3 lb). The greater bamboo lemur is found in primary rainforest associated with giant bamboo. One species of bamboo, the giant bamboo comprises by far the major portion of its diet. It consumes different parts of the bamboo plant depending on the season. It eats cyanogenic parts of young leaves and branch shoots in amounts that would ordinarily be lethal without being adversely affected. The greater bamboo lemur is active around dawn and dusk and often into the night. It is often found on the ground. Groups range in number from 4 - 7 and occasionally up to 12. 

The greater bamboo lemur was once found in western, northern and central Madagascar. It had not been seen by Western scientists for 100 years until it was observed by two French ecologists in 1972. The greater bamboo lemur is currently believed to be restricted to a few small patches of rainforest near the southeastern coast of Madagascar. Threats to the survival of the greater bamboo lemur include both the continued destruction of its rainforest habitat for slash-and-burn agricultural as well as the extensive cutting of bamboo. It is also known to be hunted with slingshots in some areas.


Tidbits

*** The greater bamboo lemur is one of the world's rarest mammals.

*** The greater bamboo lemur's diet specialization is very unusual in mammals. Only a handful of animals are predominantly dependent on bamboo, including the giant panda, red panda, other bamboo lemurs (grey bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus) and golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus)) found in Madagascar, and bamboo rats (including Rhizomys sinensis, R. pruinosus, and R. sumatrensis) found in China and Southeast Asia. (Roberts 1992) 

*** Greater bamboo lemur infants occasionally suck their thumbs. 


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

  • 1970's: Rare
  • 1980's - 1994: Endangered
  • 1996 - 2004: Critically Endangered (Criteria: A2cd) (Population Trend: Decreasing) (IUCN 2004)

Countries Where the Greater Bamboo Lemur Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Madagascar (IUCN 2004).

Taxonomy:

There are three species of bamboo lemur in the genus Hapalemur. They are similar in that they are all approximately the size of a house cat, and the majority of the diet of each bamboo lemur species is composed of different parts of the giant bamboo.  Furthermore, groups of the three sympatric species share overlapping home ranges.  Differences between the three species include: 

  • Greater Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur simus) - largest in size, greyish-brown coat, white ear tufts, often found on the ground.  
  • Golden Bamboo Lemur (H. aureus) - medium in size, reddish-brown back with a golden face and underbelly, no ear tufts, rarely found on the ground.
  • Grey Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur griseus) smallest in size, grey body, no ear tufts, rarely found on the ground.

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The greater bamboo lemur was once found in western, northern and central Madagascar. It had not been seen by Western scientists for 100 years until it was observed by two French ecologists in 1972. Up to the middle 1980's, only one population was known, in Ranomafana National Park in southeastern Madagascar. By the early 1990's it had been reported from several additional locations. The greater bamboo lemur is currently believed to be restricted to a few small patches of rainforest near the southeastern coast of Madagascar. The localities where it has been confirmed are: 1) to the east of Fianarantsoa, in an approximately 50 km (30 mi) - wide strip extending from Vohiparara in the west to Kianjavato in the east and center, around the Ranomafana region; and 2) from forests in the vicinity of Vondrozo to the east of Farafangana (Garbutt 1999).

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

The greater bamboo lemur is threatened both by continued destruction of its rainforest habitat for slash-and-burn agricultural as well as by extensive cutting of bamboo. It is also known to be hunted with slingshots in some areas. (Garbutt 1999)


Data on Biology and Ecology

Size and Weight:

The head and body length of the greater bamboo lemur is about 45 cm (18"), and its tail is about 44 cm (17") long. The greater bamboo lemur weighs up to 2.4 kg (5.3 lb).

Habitat:

The greater bamboo lemur is found in primary rainforest associated with giant bamboo. This species has also been observed in agricultural plantations that support giant bamboo adjacent to native forests. (Garbutt 1999)

The greater bamboo lemur lives in the Madagascar & Indian Ocean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot (Cons. Intl. 2005).

Gestation Period:

149 days ( Tan 1999a)

Birth Season:

The greater bamboo lemur mates in May - June. It gives birth during the transitional time between the dry and wet seasons around November. ( Tan 1999a)

Birth Rate:

One young is born each year ( Tan 1999a)

Early Development:

Greater bamboo lemur infants are weaned after 8 months ( Tan 1999a).

Dispersal:

Male offspring of the greater bamboo lemur disperse when they are between 3 and 4 years old ( Tan 1999a)

Diet:

Bamboo comprises the major portion of the greater bamboo lemur's diet. During a study of one group of greater bamboo lemurs, the lemurs spent 95% of their feeding time on one species, the giant bamboo (Cathariostachys madagascariensis (formerly thought to be C. viguieri)), 3% on other bamboo species (mostly grasses), 0.5% on fruit, and 1.5% on other foods (mostly soil and mushrooms). The feeding strategy varies with the seasons. Between July and November, the greater bamboo lemur consumes mostly the pith of the giant bamboo. It obtains the soft pith by tearing apart the wooden bamboo poles with its powerful jaws. When the new bamboo start appearing in December, the greater bamboo lemur switches to bamboo shoots. It will also eat mature leaves (which the other bamboo lemurs will not). It eats cyanogenic parts of young leaves and branch shoots. (Williams 2001)

Behavior:

The greater bamboo lemur is active around dawn and dusk and frequently into the night. It is often found on the ground.

Social Organization:

Groups range in number from 4 - 7 and occasionally up to 12. The typical composition and social structure is unclear. One group consisted of one adult male, two adult females, two sub-adults, two juveniles, and two infants. (Garbutt 1999 ,Williams 2001)

Density and Range:

Home ranges of 62 hectares (155 acres) and 100 hectares (250 acres) have been reported for the greater bamboo lemur.


References

Animals of the Rainforest, Burton & Pearson 1987, Cons. Intl. 2005, Garbutt 1999, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Macdonald 2001, Meier et al. 1987, Mittermeier et al. 1994, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Roberts 1992, Rowe 1996, SUNY - Stony Brook, Tan 1999, Tan 1999a, Williams 2001, Wilson 1987, Wilson et al. 1988


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Last modified: March 7, 2005;

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