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Blue-eyed Black Lemur - Eulemur flavifrons

The blue-eyed black lemur is a medium-sized member of the Lemuridae family. The subspecies, the taxonomic validity of which was recently confirmed by Rabarivola [1998], was rediscovered by science only in 1983 after more than a century of uncertainty about its existence [Koenders et al., 1985], and is therefore one of the least-studied of all lemur taxa. It is found in primary and secondary sub-humid forests and on coffee and citrus plantations of northwest Madagascar, in a very small area of about 2700km². There is only a small total population remaining of E. flavifrons, the largest part of it living in forest fragments on and adjacent to the Sahamalaza peninsula [Mouton, 1999; Schwitzer et al., 2006].
Blue-eyed black lemur
The genetic diversity of the remaining populations in the Sahamalaza forests is still similar to that observed in the black lemur (E. macaco), the closest relative of the blue-eyed black lemur, in the reserve of Lokobe in Nosy-be [Rabarivola, 1998; Fausser et al., 2000]. It is not known how many blue-eyed black lemurs are left in the wild. The most recent estimate of the population size inside the Sahamalaza National Park is 2,780-6,950 individuals [Schwitzer et al., 2005]. The subspecies is threatened by hunting, trapping and forest destruction, and is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN [Mittermeier et al., 1994; Rakotondratsima, 1999]. As at January 2012, there were 29 blue-eyed black lemurs living in European zoos. The European captive population of the subspecies is being managed in an EEP coordinated by Mulhouse Zoo.

Blue-eyed black lemurs seem to live in groups of a mean 5.5 individuals, ranging from 2 to 13 [Rakotondratsima, 1999; see also Garbutt, 1999]. In their study of captive groups of blue-eyed black lemurs at the Duke University Primate Center, Digby & Kahlenberg [1999, 2002] found that females were dominant over males, which is unusual among mammals but has been described for a number of lemur species [e.g., Colquhoun, 1997, for E.m. macaco; Kaufman, 1991, for Varecia].


Andriamanandratra AN. 1996. Proposition pour un nouveau parc national dans la région du Nord-Ouest de Madagascar: Un commencement intégratif. Report for AEECL. Mulhouse: Zoo de Mulhouse. 51 p.

Colquhoun IC. 1997. A predictive socioecological study of the black lemur (Eulemur macaco macaco) in northwestern Madagascar. [dissertation]. Saint Louis: Washington University. 274 p.

Digby LJ, Kahlenberg SM. 1999. Female dominance in blue-eyed black lemurs (Eulemur macaco flavifrons) at the Duke University Primate Center. (Abstr.). American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl. 28:119.

Digby LJ, Kahlenberg SM. 2002. Female dominance in blue-eyed black lemurs (Eulemur macaco flavifrons). Primates 43(3):191-9.

Fausser JL, Rabarivola C, Meier B, Hahn T, Rumpler Y. 2000. Genetic comparison between different populations of Eulemur macaco flavifrons in northwest Madagascar using RAPD markers. American Journal of Primatology 51(4):249-55.

Garbutt N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Kaufman R. 1991. Female dominance in semifree-ranging black-and-white ruffed lemurs, Varecia variegata variegata. Folia Primatologica 57:39-41.

Koenders L, Rumpler Y, Ratsirarson J, Peyrieras A. 1985. Lemur macaco flavifrons (Gray, 1867): a rediscovered subspecies of Primates. Folia Primatologica 44:210-5.

Mittermeier RA, Tattersall I, Konstant WR, Meyers DM, Mast RB. 1994. Lemurs of Madagascar. Conservation International Tropical Field Guide Series. Washington (DC): Conservation International.

Mouton E. 1999. Mission de terrain sur la presqu’île de Sahamalaza (Nord-ouest Madagascar). Rapport préliminaire pour la création d’une aire protégée. Mulhouse: Zoo de Mulhouse. 23 p.

Rabarivola CJ. 1998. Etude génétique comparative de populations insulaires et "continentales" de Eulemur macaco. Utilisation simultanée des dermatoglyphes, de marqueurs sanguins et de l'ADN (RAPD) pour étudier la différenciation de E. macaco en deux sous-espèces : E.m. macaco et E.m. flavifrons. Thèse de doctorat d'Etat. Antananarivo: Université d’Antananarivo.

Rakotondratsima M. 1999. Etude quantitative de Eulemur macaco flavifrons dans la presqu’île Radama. In: Wildlife Conservation Society Madagascar Country Program: Evaluation de l’état de l’environnement naturel terrestre de la presqu’île Radama. Antananarivo: WCS. p 15-29.

Schwitzer C, Schwitzer N, Randriatahina GH, Kaumanns W. 2005. Inventory of the Eulemur macaco flavifrons population in the Sahamalaza protected area, northwest Madagascar, with notes on an unusual colour variant of E. macaco. Primate Report Special Issue 72-1: 39-40.

Schwitzer C, Schwitzer N, Randriatahina GH, Rabarivola C, Kaumanns W. 2006. "Programme Sahamalaza": New perspectives for the in situ and ex situ study and conservation of the blue-eyed black lemur (Eulemur macaco flavifrons) in a fragmented habitat. In: Schwitzer C, Brandt S, Ramilijaona O, Rakotomalala Razanahoera M, Ackermand D, Razakamanana T and Ganzhorn JU, eds. Proceedings of the German-Malagasy Research Cooperation in Life and Earth Sciences, 135-149. Berlin: Concept Verlag.