Red-Fronted Lemur

Red-Fronted Lemur

Bennett’s brown lemur, Red-fronted brown lemur, Southern red-fronted brown lemur

Eulemur rufifrons
Population size
Life Span
20-25 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The red-fronted lemur (Eulemur rufifrons ), also known as the red-fronted brown lemur or southern red-fronted brown lemur, is a species of lemur from Madagascar. Until 2001, it was considered a subspecies of the common brown lemur, E. fulvus. In 2001, E. fulvus was split into several separate species, including Eulemur rufus, in which this species was included. In 2008, E. rufus was split into two species, the red lemur (E. rufus ) and the red-fronted lemur (E. rufifrons ). E. rufus covers the population on the west coast north of the Tsiribihina River and E. rufifrons covers the population on the west coast south of the Tsiribihina River and the population in eastern Madagascar. The species split was based on genetic and morphological evidence. Mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that E. rufifrons may be more closely related to the common brown lemur (E. fulvus ), white-headed lemur (E. albifrons ) and Sanford's brown lemur (E. sanfordi ) than it is to E. rufus.

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The red-fronted lemur lives on the western coast of Madagascar between the Tsiribihina River to the north and south of the Fiheranana River and in eastern Madagascar from the Mangoro River and Onive River to the Andringitra Massif. It lives in dry lowland forests. It has a head and body length of 35 to 48 centimetres (14 to 19 in) and with a 45 to 55 centimetres (18 to 22 in) tail. Its weight ranges between 2.2 and 2.3 kilograms (4.9 and 5.1 lb). It has a gray coat and black face, muzzle and forehead, plus a black line from the muzzle to the forehead, with white eyebrow patches. Males have white or cream colored cheeks and beards, while females have rufous or cream cheeks and beards that are less bushy than males.

There is considerable geographic variation in the natural history of this species. Western populations tend to have smaller home ranges and higher population densities than eastern populations, although group size tends to be fairly consistent (generally 4-18 animals averaging of 8–9). None of the studied populations show dominance hierarchies and aggression tends to be low.

Diet is diverse, encompassing leaves, seeds, fruit, nectar and flowers, but more so in eastern populations. Western populations tend to rely more on leaves for their diet. Western populations are primarily diurnal, but increase nocturnal activity during the dry season, while eastern populations show less such dichotomy.

Reproduction is seasonal. In western populations one male usually monopolizes all the females in the group, while in eastern populations such monopolization is less typical.

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The Red-fronted lemur is a medium-sized species with a defined sexual dimorphism. Both males and females are the same size and display considerably long tails, but differ in their color pattern. Thus, males have a grey to grey-brown fur and a bushy reddish-brown head crown. Meanwhile, females are distinguished by a reddish-brown with a dark head crown. Individuals of both genders exhibit paler under-parts, white markings above each eye, a black muzzle. Most individuals have a dark streak, running from their muzzle up to the crown. Newborn babies of both sexes display male color pattern until 3 - 4 months old. The Red-fronted lemur hasn't been recognized as separate species for a long period of time. The name of this animal was used as a secondary name for the red-fronted brown lemur that, in turn, was commonly thought to be a subspecies of the Brown lemur.



The Red-fronted lemurs are native Malagasy animals, occupying the central western and south-eastern regions of the island. These animals can be divided into two groups: Red-fronted lemurs - those found between the Tsiribihina and Fiherenana Rivers; and Red-fronted brown lemurs - those living north of the river. Overall, their natural range extends from the Onive and Mangoro Rivers southwards to the Andringitra Massif, probably reaching the Manampatra River, whereas the eastern limit of their range is unknown. Populations in the western parts generally prefer living in dry tropical forest, while those in the western portions of their range mainly occur in moist lowland and montane forests.

Red-Fronted Lemur habitat map


Red-Fronted Lemur habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

The Red-fronted lemurs are highly social animals, forming groups of 5 - 18 individuals, consisting of both mature males and females. Each group may occupy a large territory of more than 100 hectares. Between 3 and 4.5 years old, males tend to move between groups. It may take from 6 to 12 months for them to find a new group. However, when joining a group, they typically remain with it until old age. Additionally, females in western populations are known to often leave their natal groups after reaching maturity at 23 - 26 months old. Red-fronted lemurs are cathemeral creatures that are active during both day and night. Meanwhile, they have irregular periods of activity throughout the 24-hour day. Red-fronted lemurs are tree-dwelling animals, generally spending their time in the upper canopy. When travelling among trees, they move around on all of their four legs. When travelling, these lemurs communicate with each other through a wide variety of vocalizations.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

These animals are generally frugivores, as more than a half of their diet consists of various fruits, while the other half is typically composed of leaves, flowers, insects and arthropods.

Mating Habits

120 days
1 infant
6 months

Red-fronted lemurs exhibit both polygynous (one male mates with multiple females) and polygynandrous (promiscuous) (both males and females have multiple mates) mating systems. Red-fronted lemurs mate between May and June. Females generally produce a single offspring per year, usually in early to mid-October, after a gestation period of about 120 days. During the period of lactation, mother and their newborn young live separately from the group. After a while, the babies can be seen travelling clung on their mother's belly. The infants become more agile at around one month old, when they begin riding on the back of their mother. Weaning occur at 6 months old, while the age of reproductive maturity is 2 - 4 years old in females and 3 - 4.5 years old in males.


Population threats

The biggest threat to the population of this species as a whole is loss of their natural habitat due to a number of factors such as logging, clearance for pastures and fuelwood as well as the activity known as ‘tavy’ - this is when vegetation of a certain area is cut and burnt to create arable land. On the other hand, population in the southeastern part of the island faces about 1.5% destruction of their rainforest habitat. If this continues, the whole rainforest will disappear by 2020. Additionally, Red-fronted lemurs are commonly hunted and trapped.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Red-fronted lemurs is unknown. However, 2,228 individuals have been estimated within Ranomafana National Park. Overall, Red-fronted lemurs are classified as Near Threatened (NT) and their numbers today continue to decrease.

Ecological niche

These animals act as important seed dispersers of the plant species they consume, thus benefiting the ecosystem of the dry deciduous forests and rainforests, where they live.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • As opposed to other lemurs, the Red-fronted lemurs don't live in a female-dominated society, although females do play a key role in a community life, choosing and guiding the group to food sources.
  • The Red-fronted lemurs have a low metabolic rate. Hence, during the cooler season, they display decreased activity and social thermoregulation, often huddling in groups to conserve heat, where subordinate males typically huddle together.
  • Red-fronted lemurs are known to be a highly vocal species, using a wide range of calls such as grunts and contact signals. One of the most common vocalizations is a nasaly "ohn" call, given out to keep the unity of the group. Another important call is the high pitched territorial "cree" and a "crou," serving as an alarm call.
  • They use a system of alarm calls, which includes specific calls for each type of predator such as carnivores or birds of prey.
  • In addition, the Red-fronted lemurs are able to recognize alarm calls of other lemur species.


1. Red-Fronted Lemur Wikipedia article -
2. Red-Fronted Lemur on The IUCN Red List site -

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