Black-and-white ruffed lemur
(Varecia variegata)
The black and white ruffed lemurs are the largest living members of the family Lemurinae. As such they have been excessively hunted, whilst much of their habitat has been deforested. They are also impacted by practices such as selective logging. The range of the black and white ruffed lemur extends in a line down the eastern Malagasay coast from a southern limit around the Mananara River near Vangaindrano to a northern limit somewhat north and west of Maroantsetra, on the Bay of Antongil. However, the remaining population is patchily distributed and has undergone a decline of over 80% in the last 27 years.  Whilst some individuals are known to occur in protected areas, further designation and enforcement is required to protect this species.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Habitat protection and education campaigns to reduce the impact of hunting/harvesting.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Primates
Family: Lemuridae
Lemurs belong to the suborder Strepsirhini, which also includes bushbabies, pottos and lorises. These groups are the most basal living primates and are characterised by their ‘wet’ noses. Ancestral prosimians, possibly resembling today’s mouse lemurs, are thought to have colonised Madagascar from mainland Africa 50-60 million years ago. In the absence of competition from other non-primate mammals, these species diversified to fill a wide range of unusual ecological niches. There are five distinct families of lemurs: Lemuridae, Indriidae, Megaladapidae, Cheirogaleidae and Daubentoniidae. The Lemuridae comprises 28 species and subspecies, divided into two subfamilies: the Lemurinae (‘true’ lemurs) and the Hapalemurinae (bamboo or gentle lemurs).  Black and white ruffed lemurs are among the largest extant primates and are the largest living members of Lemurinae.
Head and body length: 430-570mm
Weight: 2.6 - 4.1 kg
This species of lemur is so named due to its colouration and its long hair that forms a continuous white “ruff” around the cheeks and under the chin. Pelage is primarily black and white, with considerable variation in proportions across geographic range.  Generally, tail, hands, feet, shoulders, face and the top of the head are black. Ears are white a lavishly tufted. Due to the variation in pelage, three subspecies are now recognised (V. v. subcincta, V. v. editorum, V. v. variegata).  In general, from north (V. v. subcincta) to south (V. v. editorum), the proportion of black reduces as white increases.  Individuals have a long muzzle and a strikingly long tail (average 60cm).  Its horizontal posture and colouration mean this species of lemur is easily distinguished.
V. variegata is almost exclusively diurnal, being most active in the early morning and late afternoon.  This species principally occurs in high canopy, preferring forested areas with tall trees. The diet is dominated by fruit (74-90%), supplemented with nectar, flowers and small amounts of leaves.  Traveller’s Tree (Ravenala madagascariensis) is the favourite nectar tree.  In fact, the size and structure of this plant coupled with the lemur’s selectivity and method of feeding strongly suggest the co-evolution of this species, with V. variegata as its major pollinator.

Group size and structure appear to vary considerably between study sites. Highly vocal, loud raucous calls that can carry up to a kilometre allow groups to communicate and maintain spacing in the forest. Females usually give birth to two to three young, which are left in a nest when young and afterwards carried in the mother’s mouth. Ruffed lemurs are possibly the only primates that build nests exclusively for the birth and the first days of rearing infants.
This species is very patchily distributed in lowland to mid-altitude rain forests recorded from sea level up to 1,300 m. Black-and-white ruffed lemurs maintain large home ranges consisting of primary forest with tall trees.
The subspecies V. v. subcincta is assumed to represent the northernmost subspecies, the northern limit of its range being the Antainambalana River. Its range extends southwards to the Anova River. This subspecies was introduced to the island of Nosy Mangabe in the Bay of Antongil back in the 1930s and still occurs there. The distribution of this lemur is very patchy throughout its range, except for Nosy Mangabe, where it lives at a relatively high density.

The nominate subspecies V. v. variegata occurs south of the Anova River, from about Ambatovaky south to about Betampona and Zahamena National Park, although the southern limit is not yet clearly defined.

The subspecies V. v. editorum is the southernmost subspecies and is known with certainty only from Mantadia southwards to Manombo Special Reserve. The ranges of V. v. editorum and V. v. variegata may overlap, and intermediate forms exist. The form occurring in Mangerivola Special Reserve is unknown.
Population Estimate
Less than 10,000 (all subspecies combined)
Population Trend
Decreasing. This species is believed to have undergone a decline of over 80% during a period of 27 years, due primarily to habitat loss and high levels of exploitation.
Classified as Critically Endangered (CR A2cd) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The principal threat to its survival is habitat loss due to slash-and-burn agriculture (only 10% of original forest cover remains in Madagascar), logging and mining. They are large bodied and diurnal, making them among the most heavily hunted of all lemur species. The seasonality of their vocalizations (due to increased food availability) has been tied to increased levels of hunting. In Makira, where they are one of the more expensive and desired meats, hunting is largely unsustainable. This species is often one of the first lemurs to disappear where humans encroach upon rainforest habitats.
Conservation Underway
Internationally, this species is listed on Appendix I of CITES. In 2007 legislation was passed in Madagascar that awarded absolute protection from hunting, capture and detention except for authorised scientific or management purposes to domestically endangered and CITES Appendix I species.

V. v. subcincta has been recorded from Mananara-Nord National Park and Nosy Mangabe Special Reserve. V. v. variegata has been recorded from Zahamena National Park, and two nature reserves and special Reserves. V. v. editorum is recorded from Mantadia National Park, Ranomafana National Park and Manombo Special Reserve. Unfortunately, this subspecies is now extirpated from Analamazaotra Special Reserve, and no longer reported from Andringitra National Park, and other forests urgently require protection if this species is to survive .

In November 1997, V. v. editorum born and raised in US zoological institutions were returned to Madagascar and released in the Betampona Reserve. The study of this reintroduction effort is ongoing.
Conservation Proposed
Forests where these animals occur such as Tolodoina, Vatovavy, Atialanankorendrina and Makira should be included in protected areas. An education campaign against hunting, using this species as a flagship, is recommended by the IUCN.
Zoo population

There is black-and-white ruffed lemur resident at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Andrainarivo, C., Andriaholinirina, V.N., Feistner, A., Felix, T., Ganzhorn, J., Garbutt, N., Golden, C., Konstant, B., Louis Jr., E., Meyers, D., Mittermeier, R.A., Perieras, A., Princee, F., Rabarivola, J.C., Rakotosamimanana, B., Rasamimanana, H., Ratsimbazafy, J., Raveloarinoro, G., Razafimanantsoa, A., Rumpler, Y., Schwitzer, C., Thalmann, U., Wilmé, L. & Wright, P. 2008. Varecia variegata. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 15 November 2010.

Baden, A. L. et al. 2008. Morphometrics of Wild Black and White Ruffed Lemurs. American Journal of Primatology 70: 913-926.

Garbutt, N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press. East Sussex.

Lehman, S.M. et al. 2006. Short Communication: Decline of Propithecus diadema edwardsi and Varecia variegate variegate (Primates: Lemuridae) in south-east Madagascar. Oryx 40(1): 108-111.

Mittermeier, R. A. 2007. The Newsletter of the Madagascar Section of the I.U.C.N./S.S.C. Primate Specialist Group 12.

Thalmann, U. 2006. Lemurs-Ambassadors for Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development 1(1): 4-8.

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