Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lemurs and a Thanksgiving Feast

Food! Glorious food! I personally think that may be the lemur theme song. Of course, lemurs don't know about Thanksgiving, but the Duke Lemur Center Primate Technicians do. They care for the lemurs and their fellow prosimian primates 365 days of the year. The techs work hard to see that every day is safe, comfortable, and interesting for the precious animals in their care. So the techs have planned some special treats for Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin flavored with cinnamon, sweet potatoes, corn, apples, grapes, bananas, grubs, meal worms - - - Yum! Of course, the pumpkin will be spread on branches so it can be delicately licked off; the sweet potatoes may be hidden in empty cans, and the corn may dangle from a string tied to the enclosure wire, but from a lemur point of view, that counts as "presentation." We call it enrichment for the animals. Hunting, climbing, sniffing out lunch in odd places makes life more interesting. Perhaps it sets off some genetic memory of lemur life on Madagascar.

In the picture above, Hesperus, a black lemur, is enjoying a cantalope that he planted himself - in that most natural of ways that animals plant seeds of fruit they have previously eaten. When the seeds sprouted, the techs took care of the plant until the melon was ready to harvest, and Hesperus could enjoy the fruits of his labor.

I did want to mention, again, that these delightful pictures are taken by David Haring, Duke Lemur Center's Registrar and Photographer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Duke Lemur Center's Ichabod Is Growing up

This oddly charming lemur face belongs to Ichabod, the first male aye-aye born to captive bred parents. Ichabod was born this summer to Merlin and Ardrey at their home in the Duke Lemur Center. Ichabod is a hearty youth with a lusty voice (when he is picked up out of his nest for weighing, he lets his keeper know his displeasure clearly by “eeping” loudly - very loudly!) He lives with his mom, who is teaching him the ropes - as well as the trees and the vines. He is learning his lessons well. He is growing incredibly fast—he doubled his 116-gram birth weight at one week of age, and had quadrupled it by the time he was one month old! At two and a half months of age, he ventured out of the safe haven of his nestbox on his own for the first time. By the following day, he was not only out of the box again, but actively climbing the highest trees in his room!

You can see an aye-aye and other lemurs by calling 919.489.3364 to schedule a tour.
If you would like to support the work done at the Duke Lemur Center, click here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weekends at Duke Lemur Center

You might wonder what it is like for the lemurs at Duke Lemur Center over the weekends. Do they get lonely? No. Tours are available on Saturdays. You can schedule one by calling 919.489.3364.

Also the Primate Technicians are here every day. They arrive before dawn and spend their days caring for these endearing animals. If the nights are unusually cold, someone is here around the clock making sure the colony of prosimian primates is comfortable and safe. They know these animals well. They know if someone is being picked on by their fellow lemurs. They know who has a good appetite, and who might seem a bit listless today. If anything seems amiss, the techs alert our veterinary staff. Our vets know more about lemur medicine than anyone in the world.

Our scientists are the top of their fields, too. Our director is Dr. Anne Yoder. She is an Evolutionary Biologist. Dr. Yoder is pictured above with a Sifaka. If you want to know more about Dr. Yoder and Evolutionary Biology, click here.

If you would like to support the work done at the Duke Lemur Center, click here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter at Duke Lemur Center

It snowed lightly this morning at the Duke Lemur Center. Fortunately, the lemurs are all safely tucked in their winter enclosures. The heaters are blowing warm air, and the Primate Technicians are busily feeding, caring for, and re-arranging the habitats to keep the lemurs' lives enriched during this time of year that allows less freedom.

Tours are still available, and while it may be somewhat more challenging for us humans (We look at the lemurs through windows in their enclosures, and wee ones will need to be lifted up to get a better look.) the lemurs see us as enrichment when we walk by and peek in. Of course, I don't know what goes on in lemur hearts and minds, but they appear to enjoy having us walk by. I wonder if they think, "Hmmm, she smells good," or "He looks like he might have a raisin to share. I'll try to lure that human over this way." I know there is something about the way they make eye contact, the way they pay attention to each other and to us, the expressiveness of those large eyes and gentle faces that draws us humans in and makes us want to do all we can to know more about these handsome animals and do all we can to protect them.

By the way, all the incredible pictures on this blog are taken by David Haring, our Duke Lemur Center Photographer and Registrar. Here is a link to more of David's work . Photos by David Haring

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Welcome to the Duke Lemur Center Blog!

We want you to have the opportunity to get to know the unique, endangered animals we study and care for at the Duke Lemur Center. Lemurs occur naturally only in Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa, and their habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate.

The scientists and technicians at the Duke Lemur Center have been studying and working to protect lemurs and their fellow prosimian primates, the lorises of Asia and the galagos of Africa for longer and with more animals than any other institution in the world.

You don't have to go to Madagascar to see these gentle creatures of undeniable charm and tremendous scientific importance. You can schedule a guided tour of the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC by calling 919.489.3364.