Woolly lemurs are members of the family Indriidae, which also includes the sifakas (pages 56–61) and the Indri (page 62). All Indriidae are characterized by vertical clinging and leaping behaviour, resting upright against a support, and moving through the forest in impressive leaps of up to 10 m (33 feet). Woolly lemurs are quite different from the rest of the family, being much smaller, and nocturnal rather than diurnal. They are often pointed out at day roosts by local guides in national parks. As in many other groups of lemur, there has been a flurry of new species recognized in recent decades. There are now nine described woolly lemurs, and that number may grow further. Several species are very local and will be seen only by visitors heading to remote parts of the island. All woolly lemurs are similar, with only subtle differences between them; fortunately, most locations have only a single species, which can be identified by reference to the table below.
DISTRIBUTION: Found in forest, including secondary forest. Six of the nine species are found in the eastern rainforest, one in the Sambirano forest of the north, and two in the dry forest of the west.
ID: Superficially similar in size and shape to sportive lemurs. The easiest way to distinguish a woolly lemur is normally the white stripes on the back of the thighs. Woolly lemurs found at a day roost are often in huddles of multiple family members, whereas this is uncommon in sportive lemurs. Dwarf lemurs are smaller, have a more horizontal posture, and tend to crawl rather than leap when on the move.
VOICE: A high-pitched, grunted “avahi”, which gives the genus its name. Also produces a long, descending series of quavering whistles.
BEHAVIOUR: Generally sluggish, perhaps due to its nutrient-poor diet of leaves. Groups sleep huddled together during the day. The single young is born in August or September.
WHERE TO SEE: Eastern Woolly Lemur is often found at day roosts or at night in the Andasibe area. Western Woolly Lemur is frequent in Ankarafantsika NP. Peyriéras’ Woolly Lemur is occasionaly found in Ranomafana NP.
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