Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Duke Lemur Center - changing lives

Kizzy is a Black & white ruffed lemur and a stellar mom. She gave birth to triplets recently, but life is hard and one infant was still born. One was fit and healthy. One was clearly a runt. In the wild, the runt would have been doomed - not because Kizzy didn't mother properly. She worked hard to care for her infants. She held and groomed both babies and encouraged them to nurse. The runt would have been doomed because it was so weak. Kizzy would groom the tiny infant and try to guide it (as much as a lemur mothers can) towards her nipple to suckle. But the infant seemed to be too small and weak to locate the nipple and latch on to nurse, and it would tumble to the floor of Kizzy's nestbox looking pitiful and lost.

That is where the staff at the Duke Lemur Center stepped in - changing the course of the little runt's life. Two of the world's premier lemur veterinarians, Drs. Cathy Williams and Bobby Schoppler, both work at the Lemur Center. They laid out a course of care for the tiny black & white ruffed lemur. Primate technicians supplemented Kizzy's attempts to feed the infant. The technicians fed the baby around the clock (every two to three hours), returning the infant to Kizzy's care after every feeding, and helped the vets monitor progress. Hour after hour, day after day, Kizzy and a team of humans worked to change the outcome for a little lemur - and it worked!

The runt gradually began to hold its own, then to gain both weight and strength. The DLC staff could cut back on supplemental feeding, and Kizzy could continue what came naturally to her - to care for her babies. The folks at Duke Lemur Center changed the course of history for one little lemur.

It works the other way around also. These endangered species, who are incredible biological treasures,and who also happen to be irresistably engaging change the lives of many who encounter them. That is what happened for Dr. Anne Yoder, Director of the Duke Lemur Center. Here is Dr. Yoder's story.

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