Red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer)

Male red-bellied lemur
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Red-bellied lemur fact file

Red-bellied lemur description

GenusEulemur (1)

Believed to be one of the rarest Eulemur species, the red-bellied lemur exhibits the common traits of this genus, showing sexual dimorphism and moving quadrupedally through the trees (2). The long, dense fur of the upperparts of both males and females is a deep chestnut-brown colour, which is continued to the males’ underparts (2). The females’ underparts are creamy-white (2), and the characteristic ‘teardrop’ patches of white bare skin under the eyes of the males is significantly reduced in the females (2) (4). These ‘teardrops’ and the dense rich coat help to distinguish this medium-sized lemur from other species of Eulemur that occur in the same areaa. The fur around the males’ ears is particularly dense, giving the head a squarish look, which is not as obvious in the females. The tail of both sexes is almost black, and the face and muzzle are dark slate-grey (2).

Lémur À Ventre Rouge.
Lemur De Vientre Rojo.
Total length: 78 – 93 cm (2)
Head-body length: 35 - 40 cm (2)
Tail length: 43 - 53 cm (2)
1.6 – 2.4 kg (2)

Red-bellied lemur biology

The red-bellied lemur can be found foraging at all levels of the forest, including the ground (5), and has been recorded feeding on over 70 different plant species over the course of a year, including the introduced Chinese guava (Psidium cattleyanum) (2). It feeds mainly on fruits but will also feed on flowers and leaves depending on the season (2) (4). Invertebrates such as millipedes also make up a small proportion of their diet (2). The red-bellied lemur is cathemeral (2), but activity patterns vary and are related to the availability of preferred foods (5).

Although groups have been observed with more than one adult of each sex, red-bellied lemurs generally live in small family groups of two to six individuals, comprising an adult pair and their dependant offspring (2). Led by the dominant female, these groups travel and feed as single units throughout their 10 to 20 hectare home range, which is relatively small compared to other large-bodied lemur species (2) (4). Despite being one of the more territorial lemurs and actively defending their home range (5), neighbouring groups of red-bellied lemurs rarely show aggressive behaviour to each other (2).

Females give birth to a single infant each year between September and October (2) (4). Mortality rate in infants is high, being around 50 percent (4). Initially, the female carries the young on her belly, and then later the infant moves around to be carried on its mother’s back (2). For the next 35 days, the infant rides on the backs of both parents; however, the female rejects them after this time and the male carries the infant until it is around 100 days old (2) (4).


Red-bellied lemur range

Like all lemurs, the red-bellied lemur is endemic to Madagascar, inhabiting the eastern rainforest zone from the Andringitra Massif in the south, to the Tsaratanana Massif in the north. It is thinly distributed and does not occur on the Masoala Peninsula (2) (4).


Red-bellied lemur habitat


Red-bellied lemur status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Red-bellied lemur threats

The formerly extensive range of the red-bellied lemur, along Madagascar’s entire eastern rainforest zone, has now been significantly reduced (5), the primary cause being the continued destruction of the eastern rainforest (2). Slash-and-burn agriculture in particular is encroaching on their habitat (1) (2), and illegal activities such as logging and hunting, which are heavy in certain areas, are also a major threat (4).


Red-bellied lemur conservation

The red-bellied lemur is found in at least nine protected areas in Madagascar, including five National Parks and two Strict Nature Reserves (4). The red-bellied lemur is also protected against international trade under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). It is fairly rare in captivity, with around 67 red-bellied lemurs currently in captivity worldwide. However, European institutions are keen to continue to breed and manage this threatened Madagascan species (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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For further information about lemur conservation see:



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Active intermittently throughout the day and night, rather than exclusively during the day or night.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Animals with no backbone.
Relating to forest, forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Walking on all fours.
Secondary rainforest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
Sexual dimorphism
When males and females of the same species differ in appearance.
The cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create space for agriculture or livestock.
An animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
  2. Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, East Sussex.
  3. CITES (March, 2008)
  4. Mittermeier, R.A., Konstant, W.R., Hawkins, F., Louis, E.E., Langrand, O., Ratsimbazafy, J., Rasoloarison, R., Ganzhorn, J.U., Rajaobelina, S., Tattersall, I. and Meyers, D.M. (2006) Lemurs of Madagascar. Second Edition. Conservation International, Washington, DC.
  5. Duke University Lemur Centre (June, 2008)

Image credit

Male red-bellied lemur  
Male red-bellied lemur


Kevin Schafer Photography
2148 Halleck Ave SW
Tel: +01 (206) 933-1668
Fax: +01 (206) 933-1659


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