Friday, February 27, 2009

Helping Lemurs through Research

Duke Researcher, Doctoral candidate, Meredith Barrett and a mouse lemur she is working to protect

Through the Duke Lemur Center, Meredith Barrett was able to go to Madagascar, the only place where lemurs naturally occur. She is studying lemur disease ecology, linking health, ecosystems and conservation in Madagascar. Meredith's research focuses on the impacts of increasing human development on lemur health. The information she gathered will help us understand how levels of human exposure influence lemur health and biodiversity. Her work will also help develop tools to help us predict and assess disease emergence risk. This can inform both conservation efforts and planning by public health agencies.

To hear more about the importance of Meredith's work, watch this video:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Strange friends at Duke Lemur Center

Merlin the aye-aye and Pima the Pygmy slow loris share some grub.

Aye-aye are lemurs found only on Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa. Pygmy slow lorises are from Asia. So normally their paths don't cross, but at Duke Lemur Center they have turned out to be compatible room mates. Both are nocturnal. Both enjoy a tasty grub worm, and both are gently natured. So some companionable relationships have developed.

The aye-aye and lorises have been seen curled up together in the same nest box, sharing a meal, and exploring their environs together. The companionship is enrichment for both species, and aye-aye especially need enrichment as they are highly intelligent.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Duke Sports Medicine meets Duke Lemur Center

Dr. Dean Taylor and his surgical fellow, Dr. Alfred Cook are delighted with the outcome for one of their most unusual patients - Wizard, a collared lemur.
For Dr. Dean Taylor, Orthopaedic Surgeon with Duke Sports Medicine, and his fellow, Dr. Alfred Cook seeing patients like Duke athletes: basketball player, Greg Paulus; swimmer, Ashley Twichell, and tennis player, Jared Pinsky is all in a day's work. But Duke Sports Medicine serves athletes of all levels and ages, so they are used to seeing patients who names are less well-known. Still, February 13 was special. Duke Sports Medicine added a category to patients served: athletes of all levels, ages, and species!

Dr. Taylor repositions Wizard's dislocated elbow.
Wizard, a 13-year-old collared lemur had dislocated her elbow and fractured her radius. While lemurs are masters at leaping and climbing, occasionally they miss a jump or land on a branch that breaks under their weight. In the wild, this would have been a debilitating, if not finally fatal injury. At the Duke Lemur Center, however, the Primate Technicians are on the ball, and Wizard's injury was quickly spotted. Wizard was treated by the world's leading Lemur Veterinarians, Drs. Cathy Williams and Dr. Bobby Schopler. Drs Williams' and Schopler's care was swift and appropriate.

Drs. Cook and Schopler work together to help Wizard.
But lemurs are endangered animals, and the fact that these unique creatures occur naturally in only one place in the world, Madagascar, gives the work at Duke Lemur Center a sharp focus and makes it urgent that we succeed in studying and caring for these irreplaceable treasures, who are irretrievable resources. Enter Dr. Dean Taylor and his excellent team: Dr. Alfred Cook, PA Scott Gibson, and Synthes Orthopaedic Equipment Representative, Allan Burris - all of whom donated their time to care for a rare animal the size of a small house cat. (Wizard weighs 6 lbs.)

Drs. Cook and Williams help Wizard adjust to her new splint.
Everything went well. Wizard's fracture-dislocation of the right elbow was manually reduced and immobilized (closed reduction followed by splint immobilization) without having to do open surgery. Wizard is sporting her neon pink splint and enjoying lots of treats and attention. Soon she will be scampering up trees and leaping from limb to limb with her fellow lemurs - totally unaware of the team of folks who shared their skills and opened their hearts to one small, endangered, and very appealing lemur.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Joy of Lemurs

Drusilla and Agrippina (an earlier infant)

In Madagascar, political times are tense. In the US, economic times are troubled. At Duke Lemur Center, life gets put in perspective, as another Coquerel's sifaka gave birth. Drusilla is a super mom. She births healthy infants and cares for them well - grooming, nursing, protecting.

In fact, her latest daughter was so robust when she was born that Julie Taylor, our Vet Tech, said, "If I hadn't seen the umbilical cord still attached, I would have thought this infant was a week old."
Drusilla and the folks at the Duke Lemur Center are happy to announce that both mom and baby are thriving.

And if you remember Pia and her male infant, Conrad, who was born recently, they are both doing well also. So while the world struggles on about them, the lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center remind us how precious life is, and how joyful it is to see the life cycle continue.

The folks at the Duke Lemur Center are learning everything they can about lemurs, so they can do everything possible to protect and save these incredible endangered animals.

To see these animals for yourself, call 919.489.3364 x 0 and schedule a tour.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sad Time for Madagascar - Native Home for All Lemurs

Madagascar, native home for all lemurs, is facing challenging political times.

Last week, tensions and frustrations in Madagascar sadly boiled over when peaceful demonstrations degenerated into riots and looting in the capital of Anatananarivo (Tana), as well as in some provincial capitols. The mayor of Tana, Andry Rajoelina, (nicknamed TGV for the French high-speed trains,) has emerged as the leader of an opposition movement and has declared himself :in charge" of the country. For the moment, there is a power standoff between Mr. Rajoelina and the president, Marc Ravalomanana.

The source of the discontent is the worsening economy in Madagascar, despite much recent and planned foreign investment. The mining sector has been the recipient of much of the investment, and a plan to lease out massive tracts of agricultural land to South Korea has particularly embittered public opinion. Most Malagasy people, especially at the lower end of the economic scale, feel that their buying power is only shrinking, despite the investments.

The primary targets of the looting around the country were enterprises owned by president Pavalomanana, who is also a businessman. Those include the MAGRO and Tiko stores and warehouses which contain mostly dairy products and other food stuffs. In many instances, the looting spread to other businesses, including electronic stores, furniture stores, and other grocery stores and markets.

The Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG) office in the east coast city of Tamatave or Toamasina narrowly missed becoming collateral damage when a MAGRO warehouse store was attacked and looted in the night of 3 Feb. The MFG office is directly across the street from the MAGRO, as is MFG Project Manager An Bollen's house. An is safe and hanging in there and has moved temporarily to a more prudent location. As a reminder, the Duke Lemur Center is a founding and managing member of the MFG consortium which at present includes 26 members at different levels. The MFG has an ongoing history of more that 20 years of conservation work in the Tamatave area.

The MFG projects at Ivoloina and Betampona are so far not directly impacted by violence or looting, as they are 12km and 40km out of town, respectively. However, staff are having difficulty finding enough food for the protected lemurs at Ivolina, since most of the markets in town were ransacked. It is also impossible for them to get much done with many businesses and stores closed in town, including banks. And, of course, for Ivoloina, the turmoil is bad news in terms of visitor numbers. Last week, a cruise ship, that was scheduled to visit at Ivoloina, cancelled. Cruise ship revenue is very important to Ivoloina, as there are sometimes hundreds of foreign visitors who make the trip from the docked ships.

So what does this all mean for Madagascar? In the short and medium term, there will be food shortages due to looting. Food prices are already going up and, in some cases, doubled. People will become more desperate and crime will increase (which tends to happen in such periods of instability.) Jobs have already been lost, and there are almost certainly more losses to come. Life will become more difficult for those on the bottom of the economic scale, especially those who are already living on the edge. The poorest in the countryside will be forced to draw more from the land, just to keep themselves and their families alive. So the state of the environment and the forests will certainly suffer. All not good.

Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the MFG staff and to the Malagasy people as a whole, during these difficult times. May there be a quick resolution to this tenuous situation, such that the country can move forward and people can live their lives in peace and dignity - and so that there can be hope for conservation efforts in Madagascar.
Post by Charlie Welch, Duke Lemur Centers Conservation Manager
If you read French, Charlie suggests this link.

Monday, February 2, 2009

We're expecting at the Duke Lemur Center!

It looks like babies are in the Blue-eyed black lemurs' future once again.

The ground hog may have said six more weeks of winter, but spring is in the air at the Duke Lemur Center. Foster and Lamour, two of our blue-eyed blacks have tested positive for pregnancies. And you don't need to have your vision tested. The lemurs in the photo are a gorgeous auburn - as are all the female Blue-eyed black lemurs. Only the males are black. Can you guess the gender of the scientist who named them?

There is a reason for those cravings!
These pregnancies are great news for the folks at the Lemur Center. Not only do we want to know everything there is to know about lemurs; we want to do everything possible to save these endangered animals. We serve as a genetic safety net for these primates which only occur naturally in Madagascar. So every animal matters.
"You're what?!"