Each month, Bluedot Living will feature a photo essay by Yasmin Namini, a former Chief Consumer Officer at the New York Times, who is now traveling the world taking photographs. At Bluedot, we believe that celebrating the Earth’s most enchanting creatures, cultures, and landscapes will inspire us to help preserve them.
Madagascar, the island nation located off the southeast coast of Africa, is the exclusive homeland of lemurs, our planet’s most diverse family of primates. All 107 lemur species are endemic to Madagascar, making it their only home globally. With their captivating eyes, varied colors, and unique behaviors, lemurs embody the island’s evolutionary wonders. Tragically, due to persistent deforestation and illegal hunting – intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic – lemurs now hold the grim title of the world’s most endangered primates.
I visited Madagascar in 2003 and 2018. The transformation over 15 years was profound. I was stunned by the amount of habitat loss. At the same time, I was inspired by the numerous Malagasy communities, along with dedicated NGOs, championing the cause of lemur conservation. I remain optimistic that these enchanting primates will not just endure, but once again flourish. This month, I invite you to glimpse into the fascinating world of lemurs through a collection of photographs from my 2018 expedition across Madagascar.
Forest Vocalists: The Indri Lemur
Perched in the treetops, the Indri Lemur is Madagascar’s largest living lemur. Its Malagasy name, “Babakoto,” means “ancestor” or “father”. It is distinguished by its striking black and white coat and known for its hauntingly territorial calls, that can last up to three minutes and be heard up to 1.25 miles away.
Equipment, settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 1/500 sec; f/5; ISO 2,500
Treetop Dwellers: The Red Ruffed Lemur
The vibrant Red Ruffed Lemur spends most of its life among the treetops, rarely descending to the ground. Known for their loud, echoing calls and striking appearance, they play an important role in their ecosystem by dispersing seeds, helping to sustain their forest home.
Equipment, settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 1/320 sec; f/5; ISO 1,000
Stripes and Tails: The Ring-tailed Lemur
Ring-tailed Lemurs, unmistakable with their iconic striped tails, thrive in social units. Each ring-tailed lemur has exactly 13 sets of black and white rings – the first ring always white and the last ring always black.
Equipment, settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 1/200 sec; f/7.1; ISO 1,000
Fruitful Foragers: The Collared Brown Lemur
The Collared Brown Lemur, with its deep amber eyes and distinctive collar marking, plays an important role in Madagascar’s forests. They spend most of their time in trees and primarily feed on fruits from over 100 plant species. Consequently, they are crucial seed dispensers as they move around the forest.
Equipment, settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 1/500 sec; f/5.6; ISO 6,400
Dancing Marvels: The Verreaux’s Sifaka
The Verreaux’s Sifaka, also called the “dancing lemur” is known for its distinctive upright leap with raised arms for balance, as it gracefully ‘dances’ across open ground. This mother and her baby demonstrate that such incredible agility is nurtured from a young age.
Equipment, settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 1/2000 sec; f/6.3; ISO 1,000
Forest Acrobats: The Diademed Sifaka
The Diademed Sifaka, adorned with a crown-like patch of white fur, is one of Madagascar’s most stunning lemurs. Famous for their high-powered acrobatic leaps between trees, they live, eat, and play amidst the forest canopy.
Equipment, settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 1/640 sec; f/5; ISO 1,250
Sacred Sun Worshippers: The Coquerel’s Sifaka
The Coquerel’s Sifaka, known for its striking white and maroon coat, effortlessly maneuver through Madagascar’s forests, jumping up to 35 feet in a single leap. According to Malagasy culture, they are often described as “sacred sun worshippers” because of their early morning habit of basking in the sun, a prelude to their daily search for food.
Equipment, settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 1/640 sec; f/5; ISO 6,400
Bamboo Bites: The Eastern Lesser Bamboo Lemur
The Eastern Lesser Bamboo Lemur, true to its name, primarily feasts on bamboo. They have remarkable manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination due to their specialized foraging habits. Captured here nibbling on a shoot, this bamboo lemur demonstrates the precision required to balance itself while eating.
Equipment, settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 1/160 sec; f/5; ISO 800
Midnight Marvel: The Aye-aye
A master of nocturnal activity, the Aye-aye emerges at night in search of its next meal. With its extra-long skeletal middle finger and keen sense of hearing, it taps on trees listening for the hollow sounds of insect tunnels. It then gnaws a hole and fishes them out, showcasing one of nature’s most unique foraging techniques.
Equipment, settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 1/60 sec; f/4; ISO 10,000