Thursday, May 14, 2009

reflections on weighing lemurs

Tech Laura here. I wouldn't have thought that the simple task of weighing animals would get me thinking so much.....This week I weighed a baby sifaka. I've been working with her mother to trade the infant for a nut, so I can monitor the baby's health and growth. It probably doesn't do much for your self worth as a child to know that your mother will trade you for a nut, but I digress....sifaka are family oriented and other members often carry the infant for awhile or play with them so I guess I just fit in for her mother to do a little baby sitting. I was looking at this wonderful baby. So healthy and growing and I thought how special to hold in my hands the future of an endangered species. All lemurs are from Madagascar and all lemurs are in danger of disappearing forever. This little girl will have kids of her own and help us help them. Wow, how special that little moment was.

The next day I weighed the rest of her family. Her dad is fat. He is also the most cautious about climbing aboard the scale. But, nuts are magic sometimes and he did get on for quite a few nuts (dad's price for compliance was much higher than moms.....hummm). The little infant has a brother 1 year old, and a sister 2 years old, who will soon go off to the Sacramento zoo and meet her dream mate (we hope he is dreamy...). It is the picture of a vibrant young family. How nice.

Well, we also have old animals here, and they need to be weighed too. Now instead of the joy of the future, I dread the inevitable. None of us can live forever and lemurs are no exception. I went out to weigh the 19 year old bamboo lemur in my area. I am always full of trepidation. Will he be OK? He acts like life is still worth living and as I put down the scale for him, I hope his weight will show me that he is living it well. He climbs aboard before I can even turn it on. He does this often, and he wants his treat. Bamboo lemurs have well earned reputations for being feisty. Some people call it "big dog" syndrome because they are the smallest day active lemur. But not this old guy. He knows the drill and he knows I help him.

We are always afraid to anthropomorphize animals (make them like people) but he is a primate and he is a social animal who can read body language. I think he knows the drill. He got tired of waiting on the scale and jumped to my knee. I set the scale and pointed to it and he jumped back on it. WHEEHO, his weight is good. He is still keeping himself up (with a little help from me!). He is supposed to get a raisin for sitting on the scale. He looks at me. OH, I pull the bag out of my pocket and try to open the zip lock on it. I struggle. He jumps back to my knee and holds one side of the zip lock and together we manage to get it open. Funny, you would think he would just take his raisin but he didn't. He jumped back to the scale and looked at me like well, I helped you open it now give me my reward. He gets a few more raisins for that.

So, weighing brings me full circle from the young to the old, from the future of lemurs to the past of lemurs. It was a good week.

1 comment:

  1. Loved the story about the older lemur and his help with the raisins!