Mongoose Lemur

Mongoose Lemur

[ Eulemur mongoz ]

Quick Facts

BODY LENGTH: 13 inches
TAIL LENGTH: 19 inches
WEIGHT: 4 to 5 pounds
WILD DIET: flowers, fruit, leaves, and nectar
ZOO DIET: nutritionally complete primate biscuit, sweet potato, carrots, and fruit mix
DISTRIBUTION: northwest coast of Madagascar and the Comoros Islands
HABITAT: on Madagascar, dry coastal and inland scrub forest; on the Comoros Islands, humid forest; mongoose lemur habitat is disappearing rapidly, and the species is considered vulnerable to extinction; forest is being cleared for cropland, pasture, and for charcoal production (made from burned trees)
Island Dwellers

Islands big and small
Like all lemurs, mongoose lemurs live on the huge island of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean. They inhabit a strip of dry forested coastal land in the northeast part of the island. But mongoose lemurs are one of only two species of lemur that also live away from this big island. The tiny Comoros Islands lie about a hundred miles to the northwest, between Madagascar and Africa. There, these small primates occupy humid forests, in contrast to the drier scrub forests of their mainland relatives.

Night and day
Most lemurs are active either during the day ("diurnal") or at night ("nocturnal"), but mongoose lemurs are more versatile. They can change their daily activity patterns to suit the seasons. During the wet season they’re active in the daytime. But when the sun beats down in the dry season, they take the hot hours off and forage for food in the cool night air.

The well-groomed lemur
Lemurs are groomers. They pick through each others’ fur looking for parasites like ticks and fleas. But grooming isn’t just for cleanliness; it also strengthens social bonds between animals in the group. Lemurs groom in a unique way. They have a series of six teeth that stick straight out from their lower jaw. They use these teeth like a comb on their own fur and on the fur of other members of their social group.

Who’s who?
Male and female mongoose lemurs don’t look alike. In fact, they could be mistaken for different species altogether! Males have pale faces with red cheeks and red beards. Females have dark faces with white cheeks and white beards! To make matters more confusing, male lemurs are born with white beards, which turn red after about six weeks.

Walk this way
Mongoose lemurs are quadrupeds, which means they get around on all fours, whether they’re walking on the ground, or more typically, on a tree branch. They’re primarily arboreal (meaning they live in trees), and can move with ease on the smallest of branches. When branches are too far apart for climbing, mongoose lemurs get where they need to go leaping from one tree to anotherthey can jump several meters!

Flower power
Mongoose lemurs eat lots of flowers, and are especially drawn to the energy-rich pollen. They move from flower to flower, eating as they go, unknowingly carrying pollen from plant to plant on their snouts and coats. They’re like big, furry bees, pollinating plants, and helping the forest reproduce itself as a result.

They also help at another stage of the forest’s growth. Mongoose lemurs eat fruit, seeds and all. Of course they eventually poop out those seedsand from small seeds come big trees!

Mongoose lemurs at Brookfield Zoo
Hamill Family Play Zoo, which opened in 2001, features two species of lemurs, including mongoose and ring-tail lemurs.

Get Involved

Conservation Fund of the Chicago Zoological Society