Ring-tailed lemurs are found in rainforests, continuous canopy, humid montane, subalpine, dry deciduous, gallery, mixed, dry brush, and spiny thorn, scrub bush forests.
Madagascar is a 1,650 kilometer-, 1,025 mile-long island divided by a mountain chain running the length of the island from north to south. This mountainous divide partitions Madagascar into eastern and western parts, each of which has distinctive climate, topography, and vegetation.
Ring-tailed lemurs are found in the southeastern portion of the island at elevations from sea level to 2,600 meters (8,530 feet) in a variety of habitat types including rainforests, continuous canopy, humid montane, subalpine, dry deciduous, gallery, mixed, dry brush, and spiny thorn scrub bush forests at temperatures of -12 to 48° Celsius.
Continuous canopy forests in this region are dominated by Tamarind trees (Tamarindas indica) and other large trees reaching 20-25 meters in height.
In the southwestern part of the country, rainfall can be as little as 30 to 50 millimeters (1.18 to 1.97 inches) per year and the habitat is mainly desert or thorny scrub with plants adapted to very low levels of rainfall. The driest and coldest times of the year last in winter, from May to September, and the wetter, warmer months are in summer, from December to March. Average temperatures in this area are about 30° Celsius (86° Fahrenheit) during January and 24° Celsius (75.2° Fahrenheit) during July. Southwestern Madagascar is subject to periodic drought that can have serious impacts on the ring-tailed lemur and other mammalian inhabitants.
From west to east across Madagascar, rainfall increases and vegetation becomes lusher. Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve is composed of both xerophytic forests, characteristic of the extreme southwest, and greener gallery forests with taller, more densely forested areas along the banks and tributaries of the Mandrare River, which ring-tailed lemurs especially prefer. Annual rainfall at Beza Mahafaly averages about 750 millimeters (2.46 feet), most of which falls during the rainy season that lasts from November to March. The temperatures in this part of the island average between 34° and 35° Celsius (93.2° and 95° Fahrenheit) but can reach highs of 48° Celsius (118.4° Fahrenheit). During the coolest months of the year, June through August, very little rain falls and temperatures average between 23° and 30° Celsius (73.3° and 86° Fahrenheit), but can be as low as 3° Celsius (5.4° Fahrenheit) at night.
Gallery forests are found throughout southern and southwestern Madagascar along seasonally inundated rivers and their tributaries such as the Mangoky and Onilahy Rivers, as well as the Mandrare River.
Continuing eastward through the ring-tailed lemur’s range toward the central highlands that run north to south on the island, elevation increases and the lemurs are found at altitudes up to 2,600 meters (8,530 feet). In these areas, subalpine forests, exposed rock, and savanna dominate the landscape. Temperatures can range between -7° to 26° Celsius (19.4° to 78.8° Fahrenheit) and this area is considered the most meteorologically extreme site on the island.
Sources: (Baumhofer, 2017; Budnitz & Dainis, 1975; Cawthon Lang, 2005; Goodman & Langrand, 1996; Goodman, Ganzhorn, & Rakotondravony, 2003; Gould, Sussman, & Sauther, 1999, 2003; Harcourt & Thornback, 1990; Jolly, 1966; Jury, 2003; Mertl-Millhollen, et al., 2003; Sauther, 1991, 2012; Sussman, 1991; Sussman, Green, Porton, Andrianasolondraibe, & Ratsirarson, 2003; Tattersall, 1982; Wilson & Hanlon, 2010)
Image: Mathias Appel