Prolemur simusgreater bamboo lemur

Geographic Range

Greater bamboo lemurs, Prolemur simus, are currently endemic to Madagascar. Although subfossil remains indicate they once had a widespread distribution covering the northern, north-western, central, and eastern parts of Madagascar, this species currently occupies only 1 to 4 % of its original historical habitat. Greater bamboo lemurs are generally restricted to the protected areas of Ranomafana National Park located in southeastern Madagascar. Sightings of these lemurs are few although there have been a few sightings of lemur populations living in the Andringrita Massif and near Vondrozo in Madagascar. ("Arkive: Images of Life on Earth", 2003; Andrainarivo, et al., 2008)


Greater bamboo lemurs reside in humid primary rainforests in which giant bamboo trees are abundant. They make their homes in bamboo thickets. This species has been recorded at elevations of 121 to 1,600 m. ("Arkive: Images of Life on Earth", 2003; "BBC, Nature & Science", 2009; Massicot, 1999)

  • Range elevation
    121 to 1600 m
    396.98 to 5249.34 ft

Physical Description

Greater bamboo lemurs are the largest bamboo-eating lemurs found in Madagascar. They have a head and body length of 40 to 45 cm and a tail length of 43 to 48 cm. Their tails and back legs are relatively long. Females weigh up to 2.1 kg whereas males weigh up to 2.4 kg. Their coat color ranges from a reddish-grey to an olive brown. A prominent feature of this species is the presence of tufts of white fur by their ears. However, a recently discovered population of this species, golden bamboo lemurs, have a deep golden-red coat and surprisingly no ear tufts. Greater bamboo lemurs have a blunt muzzle which gives their face a rounded appearance distinguishing them from other members of their family. ("Arkive: Images of Life on Earth", 2003; "BBC, Nature & Science", 2009; Massicot, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    2.1 to 2.4 kg
    4.63 to 5.29 lb
  • Range length
    40 to 45 cm
    15.75 to 17.72 in


Greater bamboo lemurs are polygynous, but little other information is available regarding the mating systems of this species. (Andrainarivo, et al., 2008)

Greater bamboo lemurs mate between May and June, and they give birth during the transitional dry and wet seasons in November. The average gestation period is 142 to 149 days. Each female gives birth to only 1 young. The young are weaned after about 8 months, and male offspring disperse from their natal social group between 3 and 4 years of age. ("BBC, Nature & Science", 2009; "BBC, Nature & Science", 2009; Massicot, 1999)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • viviparous
  • Breeding season
    Greater bamboo lemurs mate between May and June.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    142 to 149 days
  • Average weaning age
    8 months
  • Range time to independence
    3 to 4 years

Mother greater bamboo lemurs take care of their young and remain with them until they are about 5 weeks old. Between 7 and 8 weeks of age, the infant nurses less and begins to explore areas farther away from its mother. ("The Primata", 2007)

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


The lifespan of greater bamboo lemurs is currently unknown.


Greater bamboo lemurs are crepuscular, primarily active at dawn and dusk, though they are also active well into the night. Although they are arboreal, this speices spend quite a bit of time on the ground as well. This species lives in groups of 4 to 7 individuals, though groups of up to 12 individuals have also been observed. The typical social structure for groups of lemurs is unclear. Male greater bamboo lemurs are thought to be dominant over females, unusual among lemurs. Greater bamboo lemurs may also form groups with brown lemurs and gray gentle lemurs. ("Arkive: Images of Life on Earth", 2003; "BBC, Nature & Science", 2009; "The Primata", 2007; Massicot, 1999; Mittermeier, et al., 2005)

  • Range territory size
    0.4 to 1 km^2

Home Range

The home range for the greater bamboo lemurs is around 40 to 60 ha or greater. (Andrainarivo, et al., 2008; Massicot, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Greater bamboo lemurs have two calls used for communication: the contact call and the alarm call. The contact call is a powerful yelping sound that acts as a group-cohesion signal. Its intensity rises and falls rapidly with the progression of the call. The alarm call is sounded when individual lemurs are disturbed or frightened by other animals in the forest. It begins as a low-pitched roar that decreases in intensity the longer the call lasts. The alarm call has 2 parts, which sound something like "ouik-grrraaa," that are emitted in rapid sequences. ("The Primata", 2007)

Food Habits

98% of the diet of greater bamboo lemurs consists of the bamboo species Cathariostachys madagascariensis, giant bamboo. Greater bamboo lemurs have molars specialized for bamboo. It is unknown how their metabolism processes the cyanide found in bamboo shoots; the amount consumed in one day would be enough to kill a human. Feeding habits of greater bamboo lemurs vary with the season. Between July and November these lemurs consume the pith of the giant bamboo. They have powerful jaws which are used to tear apart the wooden bamboo poles and obtain the soft pith inside. In December when the new bamboo starts appearing, this species switches to bamboo shoots. The other 2 % of its diet consists of flowers, leaves, soils, and fruits. The greater bamboo lemur also eats mature leaves that the other bamboo lemur species will not. ("Arkive: Images of Life on Earth", 2003; "BBC, Nature & Science", 2009; "Nation Master", 2005; Andrainarivo, et al., 2008; Jernvall, et al., 2007; Massicot, 1999)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit
  • flowers


The only confirmed predator of the greater bamboo lemurs are fossa, although certain raptors are also suspected to prey on lemurs. Human hunters also have been known to target lemurs, including this species. ("Nation Master", 2005)

Ecosystem Roles

Greater bamboo lemurs may act as seed dispersers for bamboo and other plants. They are also prey to fossa. Very little research, however, has been conducted regarding how this species impacts the local ecosystem.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Because the the greater bamboo lemur is endemic to Madagascar and endangered, they may play a role in the tourism economy of Madagascar.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Prolemur simus on humans.

Conservation Status

Currently, greater bamboo lemurs have the smallest population size of any other lemur species in Madagascar. In 20 years of regional surveys, only 12 groups of greater bamboo lemurs totaling less than 100 individuals have been documented. In Ranomafana National Park during a 400 day census only 3 groups were found totaling 20 individuals. Their habitat is threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging, and the extensive cutting down of bamboo. In some areas greater bamboo lemurs are being hunted with slingshots and snares. The IUCN lists this species are critically endangered. ("Arkive: Images of Life on Earth", 2003; Andrainarivo, et al., 2008; Massicot, 1999)


Melissa Hoving (author), Northern Michigan University, John Bruggink (editor), Northern Michigan University, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk


particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


2003. "Arkive: Images of Life on Earth" (On-line). Greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus). Accessed February 12, 2009 at

2009. "BBC, Nature & Science" (On-line). Greater bamboo lemur, broad-nosed gentle lemur. Accessed February 12, 2009 at

2005. "Nation Master" (On-line). Hapalemur simus. Accessed February 12, 2009 at

2007. "The Primata" (On-line). Broad-nosed Gentle Lemur (Hapalemur simus). Accessed March 12, 2009 at

Andrainarivo, C., V. Andriaholinirina, A. Feistner, T. Felix, J. Ganzhorn, N. Garbutt, C. Golden, B. Konstant, J. Louis, D. Meyers, R. Mittermeier, A. Perieras, F. Princee, J. Rabarivola, B. Rakotosamimanana, H. Rasamimanana, J. Ratsimbazafy, G. Raveloarinoro, A. Razafimanantsoa, Y. Rumpler, C. Schwitzer, U. Thalmann, L. Wilmé, P. Wright. 2008. "The 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Prolemur simus. Accessed March 12, 2009 at

Jernvall, J., C. Gilbert, P. Wright, E. Simons. 2007. Elwyn Simons: A Search for Origins. New York: Springer-Verlag. Accessed April 25, 2009 at

Massicot, P. 1999. "Animal Info" (On-line). Animal Info - Greater Bamboo Lemur. Accessed February 12, 2009 at

Mittermeier, R., C. Valladares-Pádua, A. Rylands, A. Eudey, T. Butynski, J. Ganzhorn, R. Kormos, J. Aguiar, S. Walker. 2005. Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2004–2006. Primate Conservation, 21: 1-28. Accessed April 20, 2009 at