Sanford’s Brown Lemur, Eulemur sanfordi

Sanford’s brown lemur (Eulemur sanfordi), also known as Sanford’s lemur, is native to the island of Madagascar. Its range extends from Antsiranana to Ampanakana. There are populations located in several forests including Analamerana and Ankarana, a fragmented population in Daraina. Although its southern range stops at the Manambato River, hybrids of the white-fronted brown lemur and Sanford’s brown lemur occur between Sambava and Vohemar. Preferred habitats include montane, arid lowland, and tropical moist forests.

Sanford’s brown lemur can reach an average body length of 1.3 feet, with a tail length between 1.6 and 1.8 feet.  It weighs between three and five pounds. There is a sexual dimorphism between the males and females of this species. The males are typically brownish gray in color, with darker fur appearing near the hands, feet, and tail. The underbelly is typically pale gray or grayish brown in color, while the tail is darker gray. The nose, face, and muzzle are black in color with white or light gray fur appearing around the face. Males of this species can be distinguished from the white-fronted brown lemur by noting the longer ear and cheek tufts, which appear to be spiky. Typically, these tufts are light in color, but there are individuals with darker tufts and these are thought to be hybrids between Sanford’s brown lemur and the crowned lemur, which occurs in its range.

Female Sanford’s lemurs vary slightly in color from males. Females have grayish brown fur that darkens near the shoulders with a pale gray underbelly. The face is not dark, instead bearing pale fur and white areas above the eyes. It is difficult to distinguish females of this species from those of the white-fronted brown lemur from far away, but there are a few minor differences. The coloration of the fur is slightly different, but most differences occur in the face. Sanford’s brown lemur females lack the patches of white fur around the lips, and the fur that lines the face is longer than that of the white-fronted brown lemur.

Troops of Sanford’s brown lemur can contain between three and fifteen individuals, and each troop will hold a home range of up to 34 acres. Confrontations between troops are not usually violent, with each hone range being defended by using territorial calls. Although female dominance is typical to species within the Lemuridae family, many brown lemur species, including Sanford’s brown lemur, do not display this behavior.

Sanford’s brown lemur is active during the day and the night, with peak activity occurring during the afternoon and occasionally at night. During the wet season, it will interact with the crowned lemur, because food is more abundant. It is thought that this is when hybrids occur.

The mating season for Sanford’s brown lemur occurs between the months of September and October. After a pregnancy of up to 120 days, one young is usually born. For the first two weeks of the baby’s life, it will remain attached to its mother’s chest, and will move onto her back after this period. Weaning occurs at three to four months of age, and sexual maturity is reached at two years.

The diet of Sanford’s brown lemur consists mainly of fruit, but it can contain flowers, buds, young leaves, and occasionally small invertebrate. It is thought that when these lemurs eat insects, they do not eat them for nutrients but rather to remove them as pests. When eating millipedes, these lemurs may rub the toxic chemicals released from the agitated insects on their bodies as a form of insect bite protection.

Sanford’s brown lemur is known as the rarest brown lemur, with only three or four zoos housing individuals for preservation. Habitat loss has previously been the main threat to this species, but in recent years, hunting has become a significant threat as well. These lemurs are hunted to be shipped across seas as a delicacy, although some individuals are hunted by poor people within its range. Some lemurs are kept as pets illegally, although this is not a major threat. Sanford’s brown lemur appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered”.

Image Caption: Shot in Amber Mountain National Park in north Madagascar. Credit: Edumad/Wikipedia  (CC BY-SA 3.0)