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Indri indri 001
The indri, also called the babakoto, is a primate. It is one of the largest living lemurs with a head-and-body length of about 64–72 cm (25–28 in) and weight of between 6 to 9.5 kg (13 to 21 lb). It has a black and white coat and maintains an upright posture when climbing or clinging. It is monogamous and lives in small family groups, moving through the canopy feeding; mainly on leaves but also seeds, fruits, and flowers. The groups are quite vocal, communicating with other groups by singing, roaring and other vocalisations.

It is a diurnal tree-dweller related to the sifakas and, like all lemurs, it is native to Madagascar. It is revered by the Madagascan peoples and plays an important part in their myths and legends with various stories in existence accounting for its origin. The main threats faced by the indri are habitat destruction and fragmentation due to slash and burn agriculture, fuelwood gathering, and logging. It is also hunted despite taboos against this, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as "critically endangered".

Physical Characteristics Edit

Along with the diademed sifaka, the indri is the largest lemur still in existence. It has a head-body length of 64–72 cm (2.10–2.36 ft) and can reach nearly 120 cm (3.9 ft) with legs fully extended. It can weigh between 6 and 9.5 kg (13 and 21 lb), though the average is on the lower end of the range. The indri is a vertical clinger and leaper and thus holds its body upright when traveling through trees or resting in branches. It has long, muscular legs which it uses to propel itself from trunk to trunk. Its large greenish eyes and black face are framed by round, fuzzy ears that some say give it the appearance of a teddy bear. Unlike any other living lemur, the indri has only a rudimentary tail. The silky fur is mostly black with white patches along the limbs, neck, crown, and lower back. Different populations of the species show wide variations in color, with some northern populations consisting of mostly or entirely black individuals. The face is bare with pale black skin, and it is sometimes fringed with white fur. Due to these color variations, Colin Groves listed two subspecies of the indri in 2005: The dark Indri indri indri from the northern part of its range and the relatively pale Indri indri variegatus from the southern part. Later editions of Lemurs of Madagascar by Russell Mittermeier et al. do not recognize this classification, and recent genetic and morphological work suggests the variation in the indri is clinal.

Behavior Edit

The indri practices long-term monogamy, seeking a new partner only after the death of a mate. It lives in small groups consisting of the mated male and female and their maturing offspring. In the more fragmented forests of their range, the indri may live in larger groups with several generations. Habitat fragmentation limits the mobility and capacity of these large groups to break into smaller units. It is common for groups to move 300–700 m daily, with most distance travelled midsummer in search of fruit. The indri sleeps in trees about 10–30 m above ground and typically sleep alone or in pairs. It is common for young female indris, occasionally adult females, to silently play wrestle anywhere from a few seconds up to 15 minutes. Members of a single group will urinate and defecate jointly at one of their many selected areas of defecation in their territory.

Reproduction Edit

Indris reach their sexual maturity between the ages of 7 and 9. Females bear offspring every two to three years, with a gestation period around 120–150 days. The single infant is usually born in May or June. The mother is the primary caregiver, though the father assists, remaining with his mate and offspring. Infants are born mostly or completely black and begin to show white coloration (if any) between 4 and 6 months of age. The infant clings to its mother's belly until it is four or five months old, at which time it is ready to move onto her back. The indri begins to demonstrate independence at eight months, but it will not be fully independent from its mother until it is at least two years old. The indri reaches reproductive maturity between seven and nine years of age: a relatively slow rate.

Communication Edit

The indri is well known for its loud, distinctive songs, which can last from 45 seconds to more than 3 minutes. Song duration and structure varies among and even within groups, but most songs have the following three-phase pattern. Usually, a "roar sequence" lasting for several seconds will precede the more characteristic vocalizations. All members of the group (except the very young) participate in this roar, but the song proper is dominated by the adult pair. They follow the roar with a "long note sequence", characterized by notes of up to 5 seconds in duration. After this is the "descending phrase sequence". The wails begin on a high note and become progressively lower-pitched. It is common for two or more indri to coordinate the timing of their descending notes to form a duet. Different indri groups typically sing sequentially, responding to one another. As well as solidifying contacts between groups, the songs may communicate territorial defense and boundaries, environmental conditions, reproductive potential of the group members, and warning signals. The indri may sing after disturbances such as thunder, airplanes, bird calls, and other lemur calls. A group will sing almost every day, up to seven times daily. The peak singing hours are between 7 and 11 am. Daily frequency of song is highest during the indri's breeding season from December to March. Several other indri vocalizations have been identified. The "roar" is also used as a warning signal for aerial predators such as hawks. The indri emit a "hoot" or "honk" to warn of terrestrial predators such as the fossa. Other vocal categories include the "grunt", "kiss", "wheeze", and "hum". The purpose of these is still not entirely clear. To amplify their songs, the indri move to the tree top before they call which allows them to be heard up to 4 km away.

Diet and Feeding Edit

The indri is herbivorous and primarily folivorous. It prefers young, tender leaves, but will also eat seeds, fruits, and flowers. Female indri seem to have greater preference for immature leaves than males do and spend more time foraging among them. A wide variety of plant species are consumed, with members of the laurel family featuring prominently in the diet. The indri consumes little nontree vegetation. To feed, the indri plucks off a leaf or other plant part with its teeth. It uses its hands to pull tree branches closer to its mouth. Reproductively mature females have priority access to food sources, therefore they forage higher in the trees than males.

Distribution Edit

This lemur inhabits the lowland and montane forests along the eastern coast of Madagascar, from the Réserve Spéciale d’Anjanaharibe-Sud in the north to the Mangoro River in the south. They are absent from the Masoala Peninsula and the Marojejy National Park, even though both regions are connected to forests where indri do occur less than 40 km away.

Gallery Edit

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