Can Lemurs Swim? What Happens When Lemurs Fall into Water?

Last updated on September 3rd, 2022

While watching a documentary about lemurs, my nephew came up with a unique question. He asked me whether lemurs could swim as well as they could climb.

The question pretty stumped me because I thought the answer was yes. I always thought that animals are natural swimmers and that lemurs close to primates have the natural ability to swim but can lemurs swim?

Most lemurs can’t swim because their bodies weren’t built to propel them through the water, however, the Lac Alaotra Gentle Lemur can swim and are sometimes found foraging near or in water bodies, but despite their ability to swim, they rarely do and tend to avoid open water.

Lemurs are not natural swimmers, but it would be wrong to assume that they aren’t excellent climbers.

They will avoid water bodies unless they need to reach these to quench their thirst.

Lemurs are arboreal creatures and like to spend most of their time in trees. They cannot swim.

Can lemurs be taught to swim?

Lemurs cannot be domesticated, so you cannot train a lemur to do anything!

If lemurs are bred in captivity, they have to be given a regular water supply; otherwise, you will need to create their natural habitat in the zoo or reservation.

But even if you build a waterbody in the lemur reservation, you cannot teach it to swim.

Since the animal is not a natural swimmer, it will not take to water quickly, and if you force a lemur bred in captivity to swim, it can prove dangerous for them.

Can lemurs hold their breath underwater?

Lemurs cannot hold their breath underwater because they are not natural swimmers and if one falls into the water, its first intention is to jump out.

There is no chance of a lemur trying to stay underneath the water and hold its breath.

When a lemur falls in the water, it is entirely out of its element; hence, it will want to get out of it.

Additionally, there is no record of lemurs living in Madagascar trying to hold their breath beneath the water.

Can lemurs swim to get away from predators?

The primary predators of lemurs are the Madagascar harrier-hawk, Madagascar buzzard, and fossas. But none of these creatures are known to hunt lemurs near water bodies.

In most cases, lemurs will run up the trees or camouflage themselves in the foliage to avoid being caught by predators.

But rarely will lemurs head towards a waterbody to avoid any animal chasing them.

The primary reason for this is that lemurs are not natural swimmers and will not be able to escape predators like fossas, which are excellent swimmers.

What will happen if a lemur falls into the water?

According to the website:, lemurs are not natural swimmers and it can be dangerous if they fall into the water.

But this might not always be fatal because lemurs can leap to great heights and they can jump out of the water body.

In addition, lemurs have strong hind legs that can help them get out of the water.

However, if a lemur falls into the deepest part of a waterbody and cannot jump out, it will be difficult for the lemur to survive unless it is rescued by someone.

If lemurs cannot swim, then how did the creatures reach Madagascar?

Lemurs arrived in Madagascar around forty to fifty million years ago. They did not have to swim from the African continent to Madagascar.

Instead, they floated on rafts of vegetation to reach the island. Hence, they did not learn how to swim.

Moreover, on reaching Madagascar, the lemurs found no predators that could actively hunt them.

As a result, the lemurs increased in number and evolved. Presently, there are nearly one hundred species of lemurs living in Madagascar.

Why are lemurs sometimes spotted nearing watering holes?

lemur sitting at edge of lake drinking water 16082022

During the region’s dry season, lemurs are often seen near watering holes because they need to quench their thirst.

Because lemurs are arboreal creatures, you will find that they will hardly come down from the trees.

But you can be assured of two things when they are sighted around watering holes.

Firstly, lemurs will only go to a watering hole when they are incredibly thirsty.

Secondly, the watering holes that lemurs go to have pristine water, and the water body will be shallow.

These are necessary to ensure that the lemurs can quench their thirst without worrying about falling into it.

Has waterlogging in Madagascar endangered the lemurs?

According to the website:, waterlogging in Madagascar has proved to be endangering all the lemur species.

The primary reason is that lemurs avoid water and waterlogging, so they will be even more afraid of climbing down from trees.

It also means that the clean waterbodies that would have quenched the thirst of the lemurs would become contaminated, and the water levels of these waterbodies would rise.

As a result, extensive waterlogging has affected the lemurs in Madagascar more acutely than other species of animals.

Are there any particular species of lemurs that can swim?

The Lac Alaotra gentle lemur or bandro is the only species of lemur that can swim.

Most lemurs will venture towards a waterbody only when thirsty.

But the Lac Alaotra gentle lemur or bandro is often found foraging for food near or in water bodies. This species of lemurs can swim quite well, but only for short distances.

Is it necessary to build waterbodies in reservations where lemurs are bred in captivity?

Lemurs in zoos or reservations need a good supply of clean water. This is because they need drinking water to quench their thirst, but it is not essential to build a water body to ensure a clean water supply.

For example, if lemurs are kept in cages, you can supply water to them like other animals that are kept in cages in the zoo.

However, suppose it is a reservation resembling the natural habitat of lemurs.

In that case, you might need to build a shallow water body with a clean water supply to ensure the lemurs can quench their thirst without regular human assistance. 

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