Why Do Lemurs Get High?


Lemurs are known to seek the intoxicating euphoria of the noxious millipede. While the natural drug seems like a good time, the lemurs’ primary purpose for it is not for getting inebriated but to ward off insects.

Intoxicating Euphoria

The intoxication and euphoria experienced by drugs is a state not only craved in the human world, the animal kingdom is getting in on the action as well although they seem to have an easier time embarking on this harmful habit. That’s probably because their poison comes in a more natural form as demonstrated by a BBC Earth documentary showing how Lemurs seek out noxious millipedes.

Why Do Lemurs Get High?

Millipedes, a type of insect that can have up to 750 legs, while not deadly, are toxic with some species possessing glands that can secrete fluid able to cause irritation and allergic reactions in mammals. The inbuilt defense mechanism kicks in after the millipedes curl into a ball, after which it can even spray out cyanide while the hydrochloric acid in them can cause skin burns, in order to ward off potential predators.

This seems to be worth the risk for black lemurs, however, a type of monkey that can be found in the northwest of the island of Madagascar. While called black lemurs, only the males are black while the females are a grey and light complexion.

Black lemurs typically survive on a diet of fruit, making up 78 percent of its diet, although choosy, opting for ripest fruits. It also eats flowers, fauna and fungi and on occasion, it will chow down on insects and nectar.

Lemurs Are Endangered Species

Why Do Lemurs Get High?

They are also an endangered species and have come up with their own defense mechanism by enthusiastically seeking out the dangerous millipedes in their forest habitats, eagerly grabbing at any one within reach.

Taking hold of its prey, the mammals that roam the island in the east Indian ocean and some surrounding islands will cautiously nibble on the arthropods, much to the leggy insects’ irritation. Stopping short of eating them whole, the effects the insects have on the primates are fascinating.

The toxins ejected by the millipedes’ cause the lemurs to start salivating. While the natural drug seems like a good time, the lemurs’ primary purpose for it is not for getting inebriated but to ward off insects. They rub the saliva they produce, dripping uncontrollably fro their mouths, along with the millipede, into their fur and all over their body, including their tail, anal area, and genitals.

In particular, the tactic is crucial in warding off mosquitoes that may carry malaria, which could prove fatal for the imperiled species.

Self-Anointing Lemurs Have A Lot Of Fun

Why Do Lemurs Get High?

Suspiciously, though, the lemurs seem to have a lot of fun engaging in the process known as self-anointing. That’s because the chemicals from the millipede don’t just act as an insect repellent but they put the lemurs into a trance-like state. In other words the lemurs become completely high. As well as drooling, the small monkeys’ eyes dilate and they appear googly-eyed.

The sensation appears addictive and the blissful effects take them to a peak of utter intoxication before they come down. All that can be done after that is to sleep off the aftermath.

Other lemurs such as the red-bellied lemurs, as well as other primates, have been known to use insects in a similar manner.

The millipede, as well survives this ordeal, having served a dual purpose of anointing against potential disease while also acting as a narcotic. In fact, it recovers much quicker than the lemur, often discarded after its use, and becomes available for the next lemur’s drug session should it not be able to use those legs to get away quick enough.

Lemur Drug Habits Have Benefits That Outweigh The Risk

Why Do Lemurs Get High?

Like any drug habit, the impact of a millipede addiction could well be harmful to the lemurs but the potential benefit of the insect repellant against life-threatening malaria is thought to outweigh the risks.

The jury is still out as to whether these lemurs deliberately seek out the millipedes for the intoxifying effects or if its just a side effect to life-saving medication.

Either way, the fix is a nice little bonus for these stoners and who can blame the furry creatures.