Monday, April 27, 2009

For Lemurs, Spring means , "The Buffet is Open!"

At the Duke Lemur Center, our Primate Technicians work hard all winter to make life interesting, healthy, and enjoyable for the lemurs. The Techs do a great job! But nothing compares to the space and freedom of the Natural Habitat Enclosures (NHE) where many of the lemurs spend their spring, summer, and early autumn.

Watching the animals readjust to life in the forest is fascinating. The Techs take them out for short periods first and watch all the interactions to be sure disputes over food, rank, or territory are resolved without injury. There was a lot of scent marking among the Ringed-tails - especially along the fence line where two troops met. There was some "trash talk" between troops with members from each troop meeting toe to toe on the fence. But the lure of the leaves soon won out, and both groups ran off to pick their own dinner fresh from the trees.

Rank was clear when dominant females approached lower ranking females or males, who are lower ranking among many lemurs. Those of lower rank backed off of tender branches or yummy browse and turned eating rights over to those more dominant. Fortunately, Duke Forest provides plenty for all.

In the heat of the day, the lemurs slowed their activity, sought out shaded places, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy ice cubes made of diluted fruit juice that were provided by their ever vigilant Techs.

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