Animal of the Month
|Indri; Photo by Oliver Gartner|
What's so special about it?
The Indri (Indri indri) is the largest surviving Lemur in the world. Its upright nature and diurnal habits inspire many legends among the Madagascan villagers whom encounter it, who make special note of the Indri's human-like qualities. For some time, this has afforded the creature a certain amount of protection, as locals have historically felt uncomfortable killing an animal that is seen in some ways as 'kin'. The creeping influence of capitalism combined with the erosion of traditional cultural values however, has led to the demise of this fascinating animal, which is now listed as 'critically endangered'. Less than 10,000 of these peaceful herbivores now exist, with increased land clearing predicted to decimate these numbers further.
Where can I see one?
Like all Lemurs, the Indri is found only on the African island of Madagascar, specifically in the forests of the north-east. Lemurs are thought to have evolved from perhaps a small group of very ancient primates that drifted away from the African mainland on floating rafts of vegetation and out to Madagascar around 40 million years ago. Arriving on the island to find a surplus of unused resources, the population boomed, adapted to all the different ecological niches on offer, and eventually diverged into the dazzling array of animals we know today. Back on the mainland, the original primates evolved into monkeys, apes and then, well... us!
|Koala, Lake Samsonvale|
Is there anything similar near Brisbane?
Kind of. We have a large herbivorous tree-dwelling mammal that lives in the forests around us - the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Like the Lemurs which thrived on their isolated island home, marsupials such as the Koala found success because they faced no competition from more highly-evolved mammals. Man has upset the balance for both groups of animals now however, and so the Koala joins the Indri in facing an uncertain future. For the time being, Koalas can be spotted within the Brisbane city limits at places such as Mount Gravatt, Chandler and Enoggera Reservoir.
Indri photo courtesy of Oliver Gartner at Wikipedia Commons.