Animal Wildlife | Indri | The Indri is a large species of lemur found only on the secluded island of Madagascar. The Indri evolved in the same way as every other lemur, from smaller individuals that came to the island from Africa around 50 million years ago. Due to the fact that there were no other primates to compete with, lemurs soon adapted to live in a variety of habitats, producing a diverse range of different species. Locally, the Indri is known as the babakoto which means little father or ancestor of man. As the native people believe that the Indri (with it's lack of visible tail) resembles their ancestors, their is a certain taboo over consuming it, meaning that the Indri does receive some protection in parts of their native environments.
Like all lemurs, the Indri is found only on the island of Madagascar in lowland jungle and tropical forests. Lemurs are arboreal animals meaning that they spend the majority of their lives, eating, sleeping and mating high up in the trees. Today, the Indri however is only found in small pockets of protected forest in Eastern Madagascar, due to increased levels of logging and the clearing of land for agriculture across the island. Although actual figures are unknown there are thought to be less than 10,000 Indri left in Madagascar, meaning that the species is under severe threat in it's natural environment.
The Indri is a sociable animal, living in small family units of between 2 - 6 individuals, that consist of a male and female pair with their young. Lemurs are unique among primates as it is the females who are the dominant ones, meaning that they get to feed first while the males defend their territory. Indri's communicate through a series of eerie wailing calls both to unite families and also to mark their territory, that can be heard up to 2km away. They also urinate along borders to mark out their patch. One of the most noticeable differences between lemurs and monkeys is their dog-like snout which gives all lemurs an excellent sense of smell so they are able to sniff out these markings with ease and avoid confrontation.
The Indri is a herbivorous animal, unlike many other primates that will munch on almost everything in sight. Indris are diurnal animals meaning that they are most active during the day and this is when they hunt for food, both in the trees and on the ground. Females get first pickings and are often found foraging for very new leaves. Young leaves make up the majority of the Indri's diet along with fruits, seeds and flowers, which are easily picked up with their nimble fingers. Indris are known to eat a wide variety of plant matter although it is thought that they predominantly eat vegetation that comes from the trees.
Living high up in the trees means that the Indri is safe from many ground-dwelling predators, however, there are a number of animals that have no problem getting up to the Indri's height. The native cat-like fossa is the main predator of the Indri and is an incredibly agile and primarily tree-dwelling mammal that has evolved to catch one thing, lemurs. Other predators of the Indri include large birds of prey such as hawks, and reptiles including snakes, all of which the Indri are thought have to have different danger signals for. One of the largest threats to Madagascar's Indri populations however is habitat loss, as hundreds acres of natural jungle are being cleared every day.
The Indri is the largest existent lemur today and, like other lemurs, is most closely related to more primitive primates including bushbabies, pottos and lorises. Despite the fact that there are nearly 100 species of lemur and their sub-species found today, the Indri is the only remaining species in it's genus. Before the island was ravaged by deforestation, it is thought that a different population of Indri occupied nearly every ridge in the eastern forests of Madagascar. The colour of the Indri differs between populations, with individuals further south thought to have more patches of white, while those in the more northern areas tend to be darker.
Although the exact number of Indri inhabiting Madagascar today is unknown, there are thought to only be up to 10,000 individuals left in the wild. Other estimates are more concerning claiming that there may be as few as 1,000 Indri remaining, but they are now protected with the listing as an endangered species. One of the biggest worries to science is that the Indri does not do well in captivity meaning that captive breeding programs to try and rehabilitate the dying populations are likely to be unsuccessful.
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