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Lemurs and relatives

Mohol bushbaby or South African galagoMohol bushbaby or South African galago Lemurs, tarsiers, bushbabies, lorises and pottos are all primates: relatives of monkeys, apes and humans. They form a group known as the lower primates, or prosimians. They have quite pointed faces, a good sense of smell and smaller brains than monkeys or apes, who have flat faces, better vision and larger brains. Most prosimians are tree-dwellers that leap or climb from branch to branch, feeding on fruit, insects or leaves. They usually have long tails to help them balance on landing. Some species will also catch small reptiles, birds or bats. There are about 100 species of lemur, most of which are endangered due to habitat loss (clearing of rainforest trees) or hunting.

Western tarsierWestern tarsier

Bushbabies, lorises and tarsiers

Bushbabies, lorises and tarsiers are nocturnal. Also known as galagos, bushbabies are named after their wailing cries. Bushbabies and tarsiers move quickly through the trees by running or leaping, while lorises move slowly and carefully. If they sense danger, they will freeze and may not move again for hours after the threat has passed.

The tarsiers are the only entirely carnivorous primates. They eat mostly insects, but will also prey on birds, lizards, snakes and bats. Their hind limbs are twice as long as the rest of their head and body combined.


The smallest primate is the Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, with a body length of just 9.2 cm (3.6 inches). It weighs 30 grams (just over an ounce).

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