You probably recognize lemurs and associate them with King Julien and his infamous performance to Move It, Move It! This ring-tailed lemur is a hilarious character from Dreamworks’ franchise film, Madagascar—but did you know there are over one hundred species of these popular primates?
Endemic to the island of Madagascar, lemurs are arboreal creatures and spend a majority of their lives climbing amongst treetops. They’re unique primates and can be recognized by their big, bright, reflective eyes. As several other primates, lemurs are social and live in small groups which are primarily matriarchal. They also utilize a variety of “tools” made in nature to help them complete specific tasks.
The Zoo is home to three species of lemur—brown, red-ruffed and ringtail. You may remember being introduced to Brown Lady and Snorts in our geriatric blog. These brown lemurs will be 36-years-old in April, making them some of the oldest of their species in North America! Our ring-tailed lemurs, Elliot and Figment are youngsters at only five-years old. The red-ruffed lemurs, Horst and Amabella gave birth to little Stark on April 30, 2016 and these three have become a fan-favorite family!
Our lemurs here are wildly popular for their silly antics and entertaining noises. We’re always amused to see guest reactions when they begin their loud, screech-like calls. Like all animals in our care, we prioritize their well-being and so do they! The animal care team works daily on voluntary training, an especially important task for our older individuals. Food rewards are a special treat for performing behaviors which make it easier for us to proceed with veterinary care, such as injections, without the use of sedatives (sorry folks, no circus acts around here).
We’re lucky to have an animal-care team particularly crazy about lemurs, giving our group a very comfortable life (staff member, Mary, is a self-proclaimed “crazy lemur lady”). Unfortunately, their counterparts in Madagascar are facing serious trouble. All lemurs are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Though they have few natural predators, lemurs in their natural habitat are faced with the destruction of their tropical forest habitat by illegal tree logging, charcoal production and sapphire mining.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums actively recognizes the critical status of the world’s most endangered primate and has developed a Species Survival Plan which allows accredited institutions to work together to match individuals believed to have strong genetic compatibility—who knew we were matchmakers? It is hopeful the individuals will like each other to mate and continue the lineage of their species. That’s how our little boy, Stark, was born and we’re proud to be part of this incredibly important conservation plan.
To celebrate Lemur Conservation Day, we encourage guests to visit the Zoo to learn more and see these amazing creatures in-person. Organizations like Lemur Conservation Foundation and Lemur Love have boots on the ground in scientific research and conservation initiatives specifically focused in Madagascar. Though their natural habitat is across an ocean, actions you take each day can make a global impact. Even simple tasks such as recycling, reducing single-use plastic and composting can reduce your carbon footprint, improve your local environment and positively affect the world.