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The Rufis, Rubris, and Varecia

Blog by MBP Volunteer, Annie



We are getting into the swing of following three different species of lemurs and training a few more volunteers in the ways of the Rufis, Rubris, and Varecia (aka red-fronted brown lemur, red-bellied lemur, and black-and-white ruffed lemur). They all have their quirks and territories, and some of the Rufis and Rubris are still a little wary of people, so we have to be careful to walk slowly if we need to get information from the base of their trees.

Then again, sometimes we are surprised by a very close encounter with a curious Rubri. You’ll be peering up into the canopy, searching for a glimpse of the collared animal you’re following, when all of a sudden you’ll hear a noise to your right and see a little Rubri juvenile (they’re just a bit smaller than the adults) confidently scooting down the vine near you to take a look. He’ll stare at you with wide eyes, surrounded by white edging, and turn his head completely upside-down, just like a curious parrot, to have a closer look. One time I swear one of them was eyeing the peanuts we savor as a 9am protein boost. He darted right down the vine, barely a meter above one of our guides, looking like he was contemplating the jumping distance from the vine to the top of his head in order to sample the “fruits” in his hand. Of course the focal adults are never so bold, and it can be torturous to tear your eyes away from the cuteness so near at hand to go GPS a tree or estimate the height of the lemur you’re following. I have yet to obtain a satisfactory photo from one of these adorable cross-species interactions. I do have one of a young female Rufi, who approximates the Rubri’s staring eyes, although this particular animal was more confused than curious, and was squishing its tail in trepidation while grunting continuously. This seems to be the constant state of the Rufis, and it is hard to distinguish alarmed grunting from more casual, “Hey, I’ve found some nice leaves here,” “Or, hey, groom me next!” types of contact grunts (excuse the anthropomorphism).

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