Blue-Eyed Black Lemur, Eulemur flavifrons

The blue-eyed black lemur (Eulemur flavifrons), also known as Sclater’s lemur, is native only to the island of Madagascar. The range of this lemur stretches from the northern Andranomalaza River to the Maevarano River on the south. It prefers to inhabit moist and arid forests, as well as primary and secondary forests. It can be seen in these types of forests south of Maromandia, near Antsiranana and Antananarivo, as well as in the remaining patches of the Ankarafa forest on the Sahamalaza Peninsula. Unfortunately, none of these areas occur within protected lands.

The blue-eyed black lemur, as its name suggests, has varying colors of blue eyes including steel blue and bright blue. Typically, males are all black in color, with brown fur appearing towards the root at times. Females are lighter in color, appearing to be reddish brown. This lemur has sometimes been confused with the black lemur, although the blue-eyed black lemur lacks the ear tufts of the black lemur, and the eyes are always different colors. Hybridization has occurred between the two species within the Manongarivo Special reserve, but they eye color always remains reddish orange. The blue-eyed black lemur was considered a subspecies of the black lemur until 2008.

Although extensive research has not been conducted on the blue-eyed black lemur in the wild, it is known that they prefer social groupings of up to fifteen individuals. As is common in lemur species, the social hierarchy consists of dominant females, and there are typically more males in the group than females. They are known to be polygamous, and females will give birth to one or two babies between the months of June and July. The young are weaned between the ages of four to five months, and are able to mate at two years of age. Members of this species can live to be thirty years old in captivity, but the lifespan of wild individuals is unknown.

Like most lemur species, the blue-eyed black lemur is cathemeral, being active during many times of the day and night, depending on the intensity of moonlight. Confrontations within groups are common, and usually aggression accompanies the meetings. In captivity, these lemurs will kill the young of other lemur species, known as infanticide, and this is very uncommon for captive animals.

Communications within blue-eyed black lemur groups consists of vocalizations, scent marking, and even some facial expressions. Scent marking is perhaps the most widely used means of communication, and both males and females take part. Males will use genital glands as well as glands located on the palms and head, while females will use only genital glands. Both can be seen rubbing these glands against tree trunks and branches. Vocalizations include chirps, grunts, clicks, and barks and males have been observed emitting a “scree” noise when disturbed.

The diet of the blue-eyed black lemur consists mainly of nectar, fruit, and pollen. They have been known to eat leaves, berries, seeds, and even insects during the drier months of the year. It is possible that this lemur will consume crop plants, causing farmers to shoot at them. Because this lemur eats fruit and seeds, it is a commonly known seed disperser and can spread up to fifty different species of plants throughout its range. It is also a common pollinator, as it will transfer pollen and nectar from flowers of different plants. It is thought that some species of plants have adapted to the lemur’s eating habits in order to reproduce more efficiently.

The blue-eyed black lemur is in danger because of habitat destruction, mainly due to forest clearing for farmlands. Hunting also poses a problem for these lemurs, and because of these dangers, there are fewer than one thousand wild individuals left. The blue-eyed black lemur is listed on the IUCN Red List as “Critically Endangered” and is one of The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates.

Image Caption: A Blue-eyed Black Lemur (Eulemur macaco flavifrons. Credit: Anrie/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)