Grey-backed sportive lemur (Lepilemur dorsalis)

Grey-backed sportive lemur
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Grey-backed sportive lemur fact file

Grey-backed sportive lemur description

GenusLepilemur (1)

The grey-backed sportive lemur (Lepilemur dorsalis) is one of the smallest species belonging to the genus Lepilemur. As the name suggests, the upperparts are greyish-brown in colour to medium-brown, with a dark brown stripe passing along the back. The underparts are a paler greyish-brown (2). The head is grey with a dark grey-brown face that has a fairly blunt muzzle and small, rounded ears that are almost hidden in the fur (2) (5). The tail is roughly the same length as the body and becomes darker towards its tip (5).

Also known as
island sportive lemur, Nosy Be sportive lemur.
Lemur Comadreja De Ambanja.
Total length: 51 - 54 cm (2)
Head/body length: 25 - 26 cm (2)
Tail length: 26 - 28 mm (2)
500 g (2)

Grey-backed sportive lemur biology

Only short studies have been made of this lemur so far, and so relatively little is known of its behaviour and ecology (2). The nocturnal grey-backed sportive lemur sleeps during the day: in secondary forests, where large trees are rare, they roll into a small ball amongst foliage or on branches, but in primary forest they use tree holes (2). In some forests, they have even utilised purpose-made nestboxes put into trees (2). There is evidence to suggest that grey-backed lemurs return each night to a favourite sleeping place, often for 14 nights in a row (2). This largely solitary species feeds mainly on foliage, although they will also take fruit and bark (5).

Very few details of the breeding behaviour of the grey-backed sportive lemur are known (2). Females produce a single young between September and November (5).


Grey-backed sportive lemur range

Of all sportive lemurs, the grey-backed sportive lemur has one of the most limited distributions (5). It is found only in the Sambirano region of northwest Madagascar, including the Ampasindava Peninsula and the islands of Nosy Be and Nosy Komba (2).


Grey-backed sportive lemur habitat

The grey-backed sportive lemur inhabits humid secondary rainforest, gallery forest, bush, and timber plantations (1) (2).


Grey-backed sportive lemur status

The grey-backed sportive lemur is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (3) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Data Deficient


Grey-backed sportive lemur threats

The main threat facing the grey-backed sportive lemur is habitat destruction, which is even occurring inside protected areas for rice and coffee cultivation (2). Forest clearance has been very widespread on Madagascar, and remaining patches are typically small and highly isolated (5). Furthermore, illegal logging persists. Other threats include hunting for food, harassment by children and being taken for pets (2).


Grey-backed sportive lemur conservation

The grey-backed sportive lemur occurs within two protected areas: the Manongarivo Special Reserve, and on Lokobe Special Reserve on the island of Nosy Be (5), however neither reserve is protected sufficiently from the problems of encroachment. Conservation education programmes in the areas concerned may help to stem the tide of habitat destruction. There is also potential for the development of ecotourism attractions, which would provide a source of income for the locals and hopefully negate the need for the reserves to be exploited (5).

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

Find out more

Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.



Authenticated (17/10/2005) by Matt Richardson, independent primatologist and writer.



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.
Active at night.


  1. Richardson, M. (2005) Pers. comm.
  2. Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.
  3. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
  4. CITES (March, 2004)
  5. Lemurs of Madagascar (March, 2004)

Image credit

Grey-backed sportive lemur  
Grey-backed sportive lemur

© Pierre Huguet / Biosphoto

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