Black primate with a long fluffy tail in a tree
Animals,  Happy Place Happy Space,  Lens-Artists,  Madagascar

The unique world of Madagascar’s lemurs

Drawing of two lemurs with flowers and World Lemur Day caption
World Lemur Day 2023 logo (free for use in social media posts about World Lemur Day)

The first World Lemur Day was celebrated in 2014 and it has continued ever since. Its aims are to awaken pride for lemurs in Malagasy people, improve the country’s economy through tourism, and promote lemur conservation and education worldwide.

Lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, thanks to its separation from mainland Africa around 160 million years ago. Whereas elsewhere the evolution of monkeys quickly drove other less intelligent and adaptable primates, including the early ancestors of lemurs, to extinction, on Madagascar monkeys didn’t appear and lemurs were left to evolve into the dominant primates. They thrived on the island until the arrival of humans some 2,000 years ago. Since then they have been under threat from deforestation (caused by slash and burn farming) and from hunting. Today nearly all lemurs are considered to be endangered species.

Despite this, Madagascar is still home to over 110 species of lemurs ranging in size from the pygmy mouse lemur to the indri. All are endemic to the island, therefore unique. And new species are still being discovered; between 2000 and 2008, 39 new species were described.

Lemur encounters

Of course in our short visit to just a handful of the national parks and reserves we only saw a fraction of the lemur species, eleven in all. For Amy’s Lens Artists challenge on the theme of ‘unique’ I present a gallery of my favourite lemur shots. Some have already appeared in previous Madagascar posts and others will no doubt do so in the future. But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to sum up our encounters and bring all the species (or those I succeeded in photographing) together.

Eastern woolly lemur or Avahi laniger

Nocturnal, status vulnerable, seen on a night walk in the V.O.I.M.M.A. community-run reserve, and almost impossible to photograph!

Goodman’s mouse lemur or Microcebus lehilahytsara

Nocturnal, status near threatened, seen on a night walk in the V.O.I.M.M.A. community-run reserve, and definitely impossible to photograph!

Indri or Indri indri

Diurnal, status critically endangered, seen in Analamazaotra Park (on the left) and V.O.I.M.M.A. community-run reserve (on the right).

Diademed sifaka or Propithecus diadema

Diurnal, status critically endangered, seen in Analamazaotra Park.

Common brown lemur or Eulemur fulvus

Status near threatened (population decreasing), seen on Lemur Island (a private reserve) and in the V.O.I.M.M.A. community-run reserve (last shot below, on the path).

Black and white ruffed lemur or Varecia variegata

Diurnal, status critically endangered, seen on Lemur Island.

Eastern lesser bamboo lemur (aka the Grey bamboo lemur) or Hapalemur griseus griseus)

Diurnal, status endangered, seen on Lemur Island (a private reserve).

Sanford’s brown lemur or Eulemur sanfordi

Diurnal (but also active at night), status endangered, seen in Montaigne D’ambre national park.

Ankarana sportive lemur or Lepilemur ankaranensis

Nocturnal, status endangered (population declining), seen resting in the day in Tsingy Est.

Black lemur or Eulemur macaco

Diurnal (but also active at night), status endangered, seen at Baobab Beach (also in my featured photo).

Fork-marked lemur, I think Pariente’s fork-marked lemur or Phaner parienti

Nocturnal, status endangered, seen at Baobab Beach and only possible to capture in a video which I shared here.

I’m sharing these beautiful animals with Ju-Lyn too, for her Happy Place, Happy Space challenge.

I visited Madagascar in October/November 2023


  • leightontravels

    You got some great captures of these fascinating animals, Sarah (particularly the Eastern lesser bamboo). I did not know there’s a National Lemur day, how fortuitous to be there seeing these creatures in the flesh on such a day. Thanks for all the info, I had no idea there were so many different breeds (at least 100 apparently).

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Leighton. I was rather taken with the bamboo lemurs too – they aren’t as pretty as some of the other species but they have a certain cuteness 🙂

  • Leya

    Your Madagascar tour must be one of the most unique and precious ones, Sarah. How lucky you are! Beautiful portraits of beautiful animals. I have read about their decreasing numbers, but do you think their measures to save them are enough?

    • Sarah Wilkie

      That’s a good question. From what we saw there are plenty of people committed to doing so. But there’s real uncertainty around the government situation, with the impending presidential election causing a lot of unrest and protests. From what one of our guides told us, people believe the current incumbent, who has officially reached the end of the term he’s permitted to serve, is trying to fix the election by bribing high-up civil servants and spending money on infrastructure projects. If he gets back in it could result in a lengthy period of instability which might impede progress on areas such as conservation perhaps – just my guess however. And if he doesn’t I would assume it would depend on the enthusiasm of whoever takes over for such projects.

  • Anita

    Lucky you who got to experience these unique animals in real life. How lucky for the rest of us who get to share in all this. Amazing photos, Sarah.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Hi Tina, this is the only comment I’ve seen from you on this post, unless the anonymous one below is yours? But you’re not the only one having problems, as I had a message from someone else who’d tried to comment on this post and failed. Meanwhile I’ve had difficulties commenting on one of the blogs I follow, although I found I could work around it if I commented via Reader.

      • Tina Schell

        Commenting has gotten very wonky. I was logged in but your site didn’t recognize me and asked for my email. Every site is different now! Hopefully it’s fixed soon! Thanks for finding me😊

  • Anonymous

    Wow Sarah, that’s a lotta lemurs! Love that you caught the little baby. The images are wonderful and the lemurs are beautiful. A fun choice for the week.

  • SoyBend

    They are such fascinating creatures, Sarah! Unique in looks and limited in range. I especially liked your pictures of the black and white ruffed lemurs. When my kids were little, they had plush lemur toys with velcro on their paws so they could hang them from anything. 😀

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Siobhan 🙂 The black and white ruffed lemurs are among the most attractive for sure! We saw loads of such toys on sale in the souvenir shops there, as you can imagine.

  • Rose

    I didn’t know about national lemur day. How exciting to celebrate the day in Madagascar, where over 110 species live! Hopefully humans can do more to keep these special creatures thriving.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, I was surprised to hear they had a special day too, but it makes sense (more sense than many of these ‘world days’ that are just marketing ploys for card companies!) Only Madagascar has these wonderful creatures so it’s a big responsibility for the people there to look after them, something they are finally starting to recognise thankfully 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Gorgeous photos! Those eyes are hypnotic.
    I haven’t been to Madagascar or seen a Lemur in the flesh…yet.

  • maristravels

    What fascinating animals. I envy you your close-up visit with them. I try not to have favourites because it’s so easy to choose the cuddliest, most furry one, but I have to go for the ruffle-lemur, just too irresistible. And there I go, anthropomorphising again.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I fall into the same trap except I find it impossible to choose a favourite! Yes, the ruffed ones are the most beautiful, along with the sifakas, but I have a soft spot too for the cheeky-looking (my turn to anthropomorphise!) bamboo lemur 😀

  • wetanddustyroads

    No, I didn’t know about World Lemur Day (but I think it’s only right that they have their own special day too). They are too cute – just look at those faces and such a long tail! You were privileged to see so many different kinds of lemurs.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I agree, they more than deserve their special day, and it’s important to draw attention to their need for help as so many of the species are threatened or endangered. I’m glad you liked seeing them:)

  • margaret21

    110 species and still counting? That’s beyond remarkable. Let’s hope the counting doesn’t start to go the other way as some species become extinct. They must have been such a special part of your trip. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos of lovely creatures.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Margaret 😊 Yes, they’re finding new species all the time, or rather, realising that some species need to be split into two (or more) distinct species. But I believe 15 have gone extinct since men first arrived on the island, so they do really need not just a day of protection but a whole year. Deforestation there is such a big issue but at least now they have the national parks and community reserves to preserve some of what’s left of the forests.

  • Ju-Lyn

    Serendipitous that you celebrated World Lemur Day with the lemurs!
    I have to admit that I didn’t realise they came in so many exciting guises – thank you for the deeper glimpse into their world.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Anne 🙂 Let me know if you see any of these species, although you won’t find an indri as we were told they have proved impossible to keep in zoos as they need a huge variety of different leaves and even if these are provided they refuse to eat!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Oh yes, ring-tailed lemurs are very cute too 😀 We’ve seen them in zoos here and even got to feed them, but funnily enough didn’t see any of that species in the wild in Madagascar!

  • Monkey's Tale

    This is a perfectly timed day for you isn’t it. I’ve seen many pictures of lemurs from various sources but to see all of the different species in one post really shows the differences between them. They are absolutely adorable.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Maggie 😊 It was pure serendipity that we were in Madagascar on this day, and of course we didn’t see all these species on that day (they live in different parts of the island and different environments) but yes, the timing was great!

  • Wind Kisses

    Well, you sure hit the jackpot in your travels to be present for Lemur Day, Sarah. I appreciate the information you shared with us. I didn’t know there were so many varieties. They all seemed curious of you, as I am sure you were of them, and they all appeared to be modeling for you. Maybe they knew you would tell their story to the world. Always a pleasure, Sarah. Fantastic gallery.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Donna 😊 I love the idea that they somehow they knew I would tell their story to the world! I’m certainly very happy to be able to share them with you all.

  • Amy

    Wow… what a unique series of these creatures. All are beautifully captured, Sarah. It great to see how they enjoy playing on trees. Love the close up captures allowing us to view their beautiful fur and curious eyes. Thank you for introducing lemurs to us, Sarah. Unique and beautiful!

  • Alli Templeton

    What an adorable lot these are, Sarah, and well done for capturing them so well! 🙂 I always think lemurs look slightly shocked with those wide, staring eyes, and for me, the Ankarana sportive lemur has an almost bat-like look about him. I have to admit I had no idea there were so many species. Utterly gorgeous, all of them, but it’s worrying and rather sobering that they’re all endangered or facing threat. We humans really must clean up our act and give a third of the planet back to nature. Maybe that’s why there’s a World Lemur Day, which I hadn’t known about but thoroughly approve of. Glad you were there to celebrate it.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Alli, I’m glad you enjoyed meeting these adorable creatures 🙂 I know just what you mean about their eyes! Until we went to Madagascar I had no idea either quite how many different species there are, nor that they had a day dedicated to helping them survive and thrive.

      • Alli Templeton

        I’ll make sure to mark the day next year! The poor things clearly need all the help they can get.

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