Lemurs, Golden Frogs & New Rainforest Reserve
October 2024 & 2025
hosted by directors of Aqua-Firma & partner conservation NGO
Indri Lemur (Indri indri)
Local name: Babakoto
Size: up to 1.2m / 9.5kg
Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
Indri are Madagascar's largest surviving lemurs, characterised by their incredibly loud and slightly melancholy calls, which can be heard 4km or more away. In the Mangabe Forest Reserve which Aqua-Firma helped establish in eastern Madagascar, it is not unusual for us to hear as many as 7 separate groups at a time, filling forests and valleys with the sound of wild life.
Indri calls demarcate the territory of small family groups consisting of a monogamous adult pair and up to three young. It takes 7 to 9 years for an Indri to reach sexual maturity; and females give birth every 2 - 3 years. Birthing is at the same time for all females, each May following 4-5 months gestation and a safe 2 months following the end of the cyclone season.
Newborn Indri are carried on a mother's chest, moving onto the back after about 5 months, where it will cling until 8 months old. At this point the young will move freely, but feed with the mother until 2 years old. The young also sleep close to their mother until 12 months old; and continue to sleep close intermittently for another year.
Indri look large yet compact when observed on a branch, with their long legs folded up into the body. Their teddy bear heads rotate, with their intense green eyes commanding the trees as they look down at you. Where habituated to humans, they often sit low enough beneath the canopy for one to enjoy excellent views. They can also remain quite stationary for long periods between feeds, but suddenly make a huge leap from one tree trunk to another, unfurling their long hidden legs to reveal their full length. This can be up to 1.2m from head to toe. Weighing in at up to 9.5kg, only the Diademed Sifaka comes close in scale. Something you will notice if ever you see an Indri leap, is that they hardly have any tail at all.
Young leaves are the favoured food for the Indri, as well as seasonal fruits and flowers. Like many of the lemurs, Indri society is matriarchal and productive females gain priority access to food.
In much of Madagascar it is fady (taboo) to kill an Indri, but with so much meat at stake in such a poor country, not everyone respects this. Their greatest threat, however, is simply habitat loss. Indri need well established forest; and centuries of slash and burn agriculture has taken vast amounts of this away. Some populations are isolated in such small pockets that they are no longer part of a connected viable breeding population. Captive breeding has not so far proven to be an option, since the longest an Indri has survived in captivity is a year. So when Aqua-Firma heard from the Rainforest Trust that the opportunity was there to create a 76,000 acre reserve to secure Madagascar's largest unprotected population of Indri, we were quick to pay for 1,000 acres of that reserve to be created.
It was one thing to support the creation of a reserve based upon statistics. It was another to see the reserve first hand and hear the sound of Indri echoing through trees and lifting out of its glorious canopy. Our focus now is to help connect Indri to each other, by reconstructing habitat corridors across deforested sections of reserve. We are doing this with the conservation charity Madagasakara Voakajy - a most inspiring and effective Madagascan organisation, whose scientific approach is coupled with a great ability to connect with rural populations.
To see Indri for yourself and help expand their habitat further, join us in October 2021 and October 2022 when we will once again, take a mobile Safari camp into this area and visit the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.