White-footed sportive lemur (Lepilemur leucopus)

White-footed sportive lemur
Loading more images and videos...

White-footed sportive lemur fact file

White-footed sportive lemur description

GenusLepilemur (1)

The white-footed sportive lemur is probably the smallest of the sportive lemurs, a genus of leaf-eating primates endemic to Madagascar (2) (4). In overall appearance, the sportive lemurs are broadly similar (2). All have a small, densely furred body, big eyes, a prominent conical muzzle, and relatively long hind legs that enable them to leap from tree to tree (2) (4) (5). The head and upperparts of the white-footed sportive lemur are generally pale grey, except around the face, shoulders, upper fore and hind limbs, and tail, which tend to be more brownish (2) (4). Underneath, it is whitish grey, particularly around the flanks and the base of the long, thin tail. The eyes are surrounded by whitish spectacles and the bases of the relatively large, membranous ears are marked by whitish tufts (2) (4) (5) (6).

Also known as
Dry-bush weasel lemur.
Lemur Comadreja De Pies Blancos.
Total length: 46 - 52 cm (2)
Tail length: 21.5 - 26 cm (2)
500 - 700 g (2)

White-footed sportive lemur biology

Despite the name, sportive lemurs are amongst the world’s laziest primates. However, in this instance laziness is not a lifestyle choice, but a necessary adaptation to a low-energy diet. In order for these small mammals to thrive on a meagre diet comprised almost entirely of leaves, they have developed extremely slow metabolic rates, requiring them to remain inactive for long periods (9) (5). The white-footed sportive lemur feeds mainly on the tough leaves of Didiereaceae and Euphorbiaceae species, as well as the leaves, and occasionally the flowers, of the tamarind (Tamarindus indica) (2) (9). This species is also reported to re-ingest its own faeces in an effort to maximise its nutritional intake (4) (5) (6), but direct evidence of this behaviour is apparently lacking (2) (9).

Like other Lepilemurids, the white-footed sportive lemur is arboreal and strictly nocturnal (2) (4). At night, individuals travel relatively short distances from daytime resting holes to forage sedately in the forest canopy. Long periods spent clinging vertically to a tree trunk are punctuated with periods of active foraging, when the powerful hind limbs are used to leap considerable distances from one perch to another (2). The small territorial home ranges are actively defended, with members of the same sex engaging in visual displays, vocalisations, chases and even severe fighting (6). Although normally solitary, particularly at night, the two sexes do sometimes share the same tree hole or liana tangle as a daytime sleeping site (2) (4) (6).

Breeding occurs from May to August, with a single young born between mid-September and December, following a gestation period of around 130 days. The infant is raised in a nest within a hollow tree and although weaned at around four months, may remain with its mother until it is over a year old (2) (6).


White-footed sportive lemur range

The white-footed sportive lemur is restricted to southern Madagascar (2). However, the recent description of 22 new species of sportive lemur has thrown some doubt on the exact distribution of this species (1) (7) (8).


White-footed sportive lemur habitat

Found in gallery forests and dry spiny forests from sea level up to 300 metres (1) (2).


White-footed sportive lemur status

Classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Data Deficient


White-footed sportive lemur threats

Like many of Madagascar’s lemurs, habitat loss presents the biggest threat to the white-footed sportive lemur. The burning of forests to create pasture and the felling of trees to make charcoal are principally responsible for a reduction in the area of forest inhabited by this species. In light of the recent taxonomic shake-up of the sportive lemur, the precise distribution of the white-footed sportive lemur has become unclear. This has precipitated the species classification as data deficient on the IUCN Red List, until its conservation status can be accurately assessed (1).


White-footed sportive lemur conservation

In addition to being listed on Appendix I of CITES, which permits trade of this species only under exceptional circumstances, the white-footed sportive lemur is known to occur within the Andohahela National Park and the Berenty Private Reserve (1). It is also known from the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, but under the recent taxonomic upheaval of the genus, this population is treated as a separate species, L. petteri (1). Given the species current listing as Data Deficient, further research is urgently needed to accurately determine this species’ distribution in relation to the recently described Lepilemur species (1).

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

Find out more

To find out more about primate conservation visit:



Authenticated (05/06/2009) by Professor Leanne T. Nash, Professor of Anthropology, Arizona State University.



An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Active at night.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2009)
  2. Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.
  3. CITES (November, 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. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  7. Louis Jr, E.E., Engberg, S.E., Lei, R., Geng, H., Sommer, J.A., Randriamampionona, R., Randriamanana, J.C., Zaonarivelo, J.R., Andriantompohavana, R., Randria, G., Prosper, P., Ramaromilanto, B., Rakotoarisoa, G., Rooney, A. and Brenneman, R.A. (2006) Molecular and morphological analyses of the sportive lemurs (Family Megaladapidae: Genus Lepilemur) reveals 11 previously unrecognized species. Texas Tech University Special Publications, 49: 1 - 49.
  8. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group (March, 2009)
  9. Nash LT. (1998) Vertical clingers and sleepers: Seasonal influences on the activities and substrate use of Lepilemur leucopus at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar. Folia Primatologica, 69(1): 204 - 217.

Image credit

White-footed sportive lemur  
White-footed sportive lemur

© Jurgen & Christine Sohns / www.flpa-images.co.uk

FLPA - images of nature
Pages Green House
Suffolk IP14 5QA
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1728 861 113
Fax: +44 (0) 1728 860 222


Link to this photo

Arkive species - White-footed sportive lemur (Lepilemur leucopus) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top