Sclater's Blue-Eyed (Black) Lemur
Scientific Name: Eulemur macaco flavifrons
The Sclater’s lemur may be the only primate (other than humans) with blue eyes.
Sclater’s blue-eyed lemur, a subspecies of black lemur, is an extremely rare primate with bright blue eyes and a very small range. The most sexually dichromatic (meaning males and females differ in color) of all lemurs, the male is black with no ear tufts and the female is reddish-brown with dramatic long white ear tufts. Lemurs are primates of the suborder Prosimii, exhibiting characteristics considered more primitive (closer to the ancestral type) than the advanced monkeys and apes.
STATUS: Blue-eyed lemurs are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are listed on CITES Appendix I, meaning that permits for trade are granted only for educational or scientific purposes, and even then only if such trade does not threaten the species.
HABITAT: These lemurs are found only in a small area of northwest Madagascar, south of the Sambirano River, in forests adjacent to the ever-increasing plantations of timber, coffee, citrus, and cashews.
DIET: Blue-eyed lemurs eat mostly vegetable matter and fruit, including flowers and leaves. They also feed on nectar-bearing plants that bloom at night, and they savor some animal matter like millipedes. In the trees, these lemurs eat directly from branches, which they pull toward their faces while hanging on with their grasping feet, or from large fruits they grasp with both hands while biting off pieces.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Blue-eyed lemurs are members of the genus Eulemur, which is one of the four recognized genera of the Family Lemuridae. Their recent generic classification is a result of DNA analysis. Their slender bodies are about 16 inches, with long, 20-inch furry tails. They lack the brachial (arm) scent glands of Genus Lemur, but use anogenital scent glands, along with urine, to mark home territories.
Gestation is about four-and-a-half months. Usually a single infant is born, though twins are not rare. Both sexes are born dark; females change color around six months. With their grasping hands, babies hang on to the mother’s abdomen for about four weeks, then ride on her back. Weaning is at about five months, and maturity at 18 months. These lemurs live up to 30 years. Their fox-like faces often have differing colors of fur around the eyes and noses.
Sclater’s Lemur Society and Survival
Blue-eyed lemurs socialize and sleep in groups of between four and fifteen, with female leadership. As good leapers, they are most active in the trees in daylight, though are also observed moving around at night. They often groom each other and communicate with deep grunts. They escape danger from eagles, fossas, civets, and humans by suddenly dropping from the trees, dashing through bushes to another tree, and quickly climbing out of sight.
Not extensively studied, blue-eyed lemurs are thought to number between 100 and 1,000. There is a serious effort in a few United States and European zoos to save this rare species through captive breeding. These personable and strikingly beautiful lemurs are named for Philip Sclater, secretary of the London Zoological Society in the late 1800s. Sclater wrote articles about the origin of Madagascar, proposing to call the island “Lemuria,” after its fascinating endemic primates.