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The Endearing Lemurs of Madagascar

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Located in the Indian Ocean 400 kilometers off the eastern coast of Africa, this magical place is the fourth largest island in the world after Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo. Isolated from other landmasses for 88 million years, Madagascar is home to an abundance of unique and unusual species of wildlife. Nearly 90% of animals and plants are endemic, which means they are found nowhere else in the world. The rare and precious examples of these animals include lemurs like me, fossas, tomato frogs, and Madagascar long-eared owls. We lemurs are mammals and primates, and there are around 111 existing species of us. Mostly, we have a foxlike snout, large eyes, and a lengthy tail. Our four fingers are slender and our thumb is short, ending in a dark colored nail. Sizes vary depending on species. Lemurs have colorful appearances. The indri is black and white. The sifaka has a round, black face with silky fur. The long-fingered aye-aye resembles a big house cat. The most “popular” lemur is me. The ring-tailed lemur is a beloved symbol of Madagascar. The lemur habitat range is widespread across the country. We occupy many different areas, including deciduous and spiny forests, wetlands and dry scrub. Lemurs like to socialize in small groups and move around with each other. Even though some nocturnal lemurs keep to themselves during waking hours, they are inclined to sleep with other lemurs during the day. When we are not eating, we enjoy grooming each other and sunbathing. Our lifespan is around 16 years on average in the wild. For us, scents are extremely important communication tools. Among other uses, they are how we mark our territory, thus letting others know our presence. We are also known as “lemur catta,” with “catta” referring to our cat-like appearance. My purring vocalization is similar to that of a house cat. Since the 1950s, approximately 45% of the forest cover in Madagascar has already disappeared due to agricultural activities, illegal logging, charcoal production, and mining. As we dwell in the canopies of large trees, their loss directly impacts our population. The number of ring-tailed lemurs has plummeted more than 95% since 2000. There were about 750,000 of us at the beginning of the 21st century, and now as few as 2,000 remain. Please awaken your loving kindness, not only for Malagasy lemurs, but for all of Earth’s inhabitants.
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