Sunday 7 April 2013

Lemurs in Madagascar

Black and White Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegata variegata) - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 100

In July last year, I again visited Madagascar to teach a short graduate course at the University of Antananarivo. The following week I headed East into the rain forests, and spent several days photographing lemurs and chameleons.

Lemurs are an interesting branch of primates and are only found in Madagascar. They're also very cute, and thus endangered by ruthless collectors for the exotic pet trade, and of course also by Madagascar's catastrophic habitat destruction. In this post I'll show you a few of them, with the chameleons having to wait for a future blog post.

I first visited the Andasibe and Mantadia National Parks, as well as the Analamazoatra Reserve, where I could see these photogenic critters in their natural environment. Thereafter, I visited a number of other reserves, which have mostly been stocked by various lemur species which don't necessarily belong to that region, such as the Ring-tailed lemurs which are endemic to the South of the island.

Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) - Canon 40D, Canon 17-55, 1/160, f/5.6, ISO 250

As before, my trip was arranged by Madagascar Tour Guide, who did an excellent job. I had my own driver (you must hire a car with a driver in Madagascar - you'll live longer that way!) and various highly knowledgeable guides lead me around the forest, and spotted all sorts of creatures that I would never have noticed.


Indri (Indri indri) - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 200

The Indri is the largest of all lemurs, though that's still not very big; they typically weigh in at 6-9kg. They spend almost their whole lives in the trees, and only rarely climb down to the ground. I did witness one occasion, where an Indri climbed down to munch some soil for its mineral content. Ironically, it was too close for me to get a decent picture of this rare event with my 70-200mm lens mounted.

Indri in flight - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 400

Indri are prodigious jumpers, and can move very rapidly through the forest by jumping from one tree to the next without breaking stride.

Wake-up call - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/250, f/8, ISO 100

They live in small family groups and mark out their territories with eerie and impressively loud calls, usually around 10am each morning. I spent many hours hanging out with groups of Indri in the forest, following them as they foraged though the canopy, and that was probably the most enjoyable part of the trip.

My trusty old 40D with the wonderful 70-200mm f/4L IS lens attached did a good job. A lens hood is essential in the forest, to keep branches, leaves and water droplets off the filter. A powerful flash also helps. I also have a convenient close-up lens by Raynox that can be clipped onto the lens for macro shots (e.g. of chameleons) at short notice.

Diademed Sifaka

Diademed Sifaka (Propithecus diadema) - Canon 40D, 70-200 f/4 IS, 1/100, f/4, ISO 800

We also tracked a family of beautiful Diademed Sifaka, with the little ones tumbling about the undergrowth and letting us get relatively close. The leader of the group (I assume that was the daddy) wore a radio collar.

Daddy has a funky radio collar - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 400

Goodman's Mouse Lemur

Goodman's Mouse Lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara) - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/125, f/4, ISO 800

Goodman's Mouse Lemur was only recently discovered to be a different species from other mouse lemurs. They're tiny and nocturnal, but are relatively easy to find in the area around Andasibe. Just walk along the road at night, shining your torch into the bushes, and you're bound to find one sooner or later - their eyes shine right back. You'll also see other shining eyes, e.g. from moths and spiders. 


 Other Lemurs

At various other reserves (I can in particular recommend the Palmarium) I got to see a motley collection of different lemur species. Most of these were not in their natural habitats, and many had been habituated to humans, including rescued pet lemurs.

Bamboo Lemur (not sure which species) - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/125, f/4, ISO 250

Ring-tail Lemurs are the most social of all lemurs - Canon 40D, 17-55, 1/200, f/5.6, ISO 250
Crowned Lemur (Eulemur coronatus) - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/200, f/5.6, ISO 100

Female Black Lemur (Eulemur macaco) and Crowned Lemur - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 400

Banana thief! - Canon 40D, 17-55, 1/160, f/4, ISO 250

Posing Black and White Ruffed Lemur - Canon 40D, 70-200 f4 IS, 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 100

Coquerel's Sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) - Canon 40D, 17-55, 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 200

Jumping sifaka - Canon 40D, 17-55, 1/125, f/8, ISO 200
Sifakas are more at home in the trees, when on the ground they move by jumping rather than walking.

There's something to be said for having a Brown Lemur sitting on your shoulder and grunting in your ear.

Yours truly (Homo sapiens) and Brown Lemur (Eulemur fulvus) - Say no to drugs!


  1. Why is the brown Lemur wearing a blue jacket? Oh, wait... :)

  2. Lemurs in Madagascar. Pictures are really looking great. Thanks for sharing these Pictures.

  3. Aww how cute. I love nature photography. It looks like you enjoyed yourself to on the way :)

  4. love all of them but the first shot is fantastic

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