Lepilemur ankaranensis

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

Ankarana sportive lemurs (Lepilemur ankaranensis) are small nocturnal primates endemic to the northern tip of Madagascar.

Sometimes known as Ankarana weasel lemurs, these sportive lemurs are found in the damp evergreen and dry lowland forests of the Ankarana, Andrafiamena, and Analamerana protected areas, and along the sloped forests throughout Montagne d’Ambre National Park. Their home ranges average 2.4 acres (1 ha), but males have larger areas and may overlap a female’s territory. 

Ankarana sportive lemur range, IUCN 2020

Size, Weight, and Lifespan

The Ankarana sportive lemur is are one of the smallest of the sportive lemur species. They weigh just 1.6 pounds (750 g) on average and from head to tail tip, they average just 20.8 inches (53 cm) in length. Their tails make up nearly half their size, averaging 9.8 inches (25 cm) in length.


Ankarana sportive lemurs are tiny tree-dwelling primates with mousey ears, big bulging eyes, and long bushy tails that make up half their total size. Like other sportive lemurs, males and females look similar; their coat is typically a grayish-brown with a gray underside, and their tails are dark gray or light brown. They have long prosimian fingers and wide finger pads that help them grip onto trees as they travel through the forest more easily. 


Ankarana sportive lemurs are herbivores and their diets change depending on the season. They feed on fruits during the rainy season and leaves during the dry season. Researchers have also seen those south of Montagne d’Ambre National Park eat sap and latex. There have also been reports of Lepilemurs (sportive lemurs) eating their feces, which provide an extra source of nutrients from broken down cellulose.

Leaves in their environment are sometimes hard to digest, but lemurs are equipped with a specialized digestive system designed to more easily break down the cellulose in leaves and convert it to energy.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Nocturnal and arboreal, these small tree-huggers spend their days sheltered in small tree holes or vine tangles throughout small forest patches of northern Madagascar. Like many other sportive lemurs, they make their shelters 3–25 feet (1–8 m) off the ground, and they avoid long-hanging branches that could make them vulnerable to predators. At night, they forage for food by jumping from tree to tree using both their front and back legs to grip the branches.

With the exception of females and their young, Ankarana sportive lemurs prefer a solitary life of living, sleeping, and foraging alone. They’re also highly territorial and will defend their boundaries against any same-sex intruders.

Fun Facts

Weighing just 1.6 pounds (750 g) and only 20.8 inches (53 cm) in length, Ankarana sportive lemurs are one of the smallest sportive lemur species.

Daily Life and Group Dynamics

Ankarana sportive lemurs are true loners. Adults meet once a year to mate. Females care for their young until they are mature, at around 1.5 years old. The rest of an Ankarana sportive lemur’s time is spent in solitude. They make their nests in hollow trunks and tree holes, and their coat color helps them blend in with the environment so they are safe from predators. At night, they leave their nests and jump from tree to tree foraging for food. 


Not much is known about this species’ communication but we can look at sportive lemurs in general to understand the Ankarana sportive lemur.

Most sportive lemurs make an “ou-ah” monosyllabic sound and a high-pitched multi-syllabic sound, so Ankarana sportives may make similar vocalizations. Since they are highly territorial, they may use communication to ward off intruders. Researchers believe that some syllables for sportive lemurs may be gender-specific. Sportive lemurs also communicate with visual displays and scent-marking.

Reproduction and Family

As stated, Ankarana sportive lemurs are solitary. Males and females meet once a year to mate, and we can assume from other sportive lemurs that males mate with multiple females. Female give birth to one or two offspring at a time at the beginning of northern Madagascar’s rainy season, which occurs between September and December. The young are cared for solely by the mothers and are weaned at four months, and will stay with their mother until maturity at 1.5 years.

Ecological Role

As fruit-eaters, Ankarana sportive lemurs are crucial for seed dispersal in their region. They’re also integral to the local food chain. Native boas are known to prey on them in their sleeping spots.

Conservation Status and Threats

Ankarana sportive lemurs are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2018). Their population is decreasing due to several different threats; however, their exact population number is unknown.

An Ankarana sportive lemur would likely say their biggest threat is a ground boa. However, habitat loss and hunting are threats to the overall species, as well as other animals in northern Madagascar.

Forest loss is their major threat. Their habitats are extremely vulnerable to destruction due to mining for charcoal and sapphires and rosewood logging. With more miners in the area, Ankarana sportive lemurs are also hunted for food and occasionally trapped and kept as pets.

Conservation Efforts

The Ankarana sportive lemur is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international agreement between governments whose goal is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Ankarana sportive lemurs are primarily located in protected areas in northern Madagascar, including Ankarana, Andrafiamena, and Analamerana. Although these areas are classified as protected, the IUCN recommends urgent improvements to management and protection as well as long-term scientific presence in the area.


Written by Maria DiCesare, November 2022