Area of zoo
Pink zone
Enclosure status
Population in the wild
IUCN status
Scientific name
Lemur catta
Madagascar and a few small surrounding areas
Dry open areas and forests

What ring-tailed lemurs look like?  

The ring-tailed lemur has a distinctive large bushy black-and-white striped tail. They have white faces with black ringed features and fluffy white ears. Their coat is otherwise grey with a white underbelly. 

A ring-tailed lemur at London Zoo climbing a branch
A close up of a ring-tailed lemur's face at London Zoo

Ring-tailed lemur facts 

  • Lemurs have flexible hands with opposable digits but their grasp is quite weak, which means eating large chucks of apple can be a challenge (#lemurproblems). 

  • The ring-tailed lemur’s scientific name lemur catta translates as 'ghost cat'. This may be because of their cat-like qualities such as walking on all fours, their propensity for grooming and ability to purr. ‘Lemur’ means ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit of the dead’. Chosen because early explorers in Madagascar thought their loud calls were made by spirits in the forest canopy.  

  • Ring-tailed lemurs are very social and live in troops of up to 30 individuals. They're highly communicative and have around 30 distinct types of calls including grunting, howling and meowing. They spend much of their time grooming each other with comb-like front teeth, this helps establish their tight-knit social bonds. 

  • During mating season, male ring-tailed lemurs compete to be the smelliest. They rub their tails with scent from glands on their wrists and stink fight by wafting the pungent odour towards their opponent and glaring at them. The fight ends with the least smelly male conceding and dashing away. 

  • In lemur society, the females are in charge. They have the pick of the food and choose their mates. 

See ring-tailed lemurs at London Zoo

A ring-tailed lemur at London Zoo


Book your ticket now to see our ring-tailed lemurs at London Zoo

What do ring-tailed lemurs eat?  

Plants, leaves, flowers, fruit, sap, bark and occasional insects. 

Ring-tailed lemur habitat 

Dry open areas and forest. 

Where do ring-tailed lemurs live?  

Lemurs are indigenous only to Madagascar and a few small surrounding areas, meaning any environmental damage puts most of the species in danger. 

What threats do ring-tailed lemurs face?  

Ring-tailed lemurs might be common in zoos, but in the wild they aren’t so lucky. Droughts caused by climate change are destroying the fruiting trees that lemurs depend upon and are forcing local communities to rely on the forest to feed their families. This is piling more pressure on lemurs, which are already struggling against habitat loss and the exotic pet trade. Together we can make a difference, by each playing our part to tackle the climate crisis, we can help protect lemurs and life everywhere.

London Zoo Newsletter
Get the latest updates about exciting animal news from the Zoos, upcoming events, experiences, offers