Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Raising Dan Akroyd - at Duke Lemur Center

by Tech Laura
I returned from Rome to find that I would be taking care of Dan Akroyd. At least until he was well enough to go live with his father, who had moved next door to keep him company.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. It all starts with Akroyd’s mother, Jody Foster. Last October, she got together with Akroyd’s father, Lawrence Olivier, and was lucky enough to conceive. Since she is a teenage mother, there is still hope that she and Olivier can have a large family. You see, blue eyed black lemurs are endangered and, being a delicate subspecies of lemur, appear to have some difficulties conceiving, and once they do, having the infants survive. Oh, have I confused you?

Let me clarify. Foster is a Eulemur macaco flavifrons, also known as a Blue-eyed black lemur, a subspecies of the common black lemur. Blue-eyed black lemurs have a striking appearance and are often domineering and high strung. These qualities, or maybe it’s just their eye color, are why the Lemur Center names them after starlets and movie stars. About the only thing our fiery red head Foster has in common with Jody Foster is that she is quite beautiful and has sparkling sky blue eyes. So, where does the “black lemur” part come in? Well, the males are all black, the females all reddish brown, and all of them have stunning blue or green eyes.

Now, back to raising Dan Akroyd. He is only half the blues brothers. Have I confused you again? Let me explain, Akroyd is a twin. You see, not only were Foster and Olivier a good match, they conceived twins! Yes, twin boys. This is a first for the Lemur Center. And for two months Foster was an extremely protective mother. She chased off Olivier, who had to find other living arrangements. She chased off me, even though I brought the food! All was going well, and at one month of age, the boys were christened Akroyd and Belushi – the blues brothers. Little Akroyd had (yes had, I’ll get to that…) beautiful green eyes and his brother little Belushi has (yes still has…) beautiful blue eyes.

Here’s where Rome comes in. I had a great vacation! Yes, techs get vacations too- the Coliseum, lemonchello…. but, when I came home, I found little Akroyd had been rejected by his mother. He had also received a very un-motherly bite wound to the side of his head. As a result, Akroyd had one green eye, and one black eye – sort of like his namesake (How foretelling that he would be named after an actor with one green eye and one brown). It didn’t seem to phase Akroyd. He soon adapted to living next to Olivier and eating non-stop room service. It takes only one needful glance from this little fella to fall head over heals in love. Why he was rejected at two months old is a mystery, a mystery that repeated itself only one week later.

And so it was that I came to be raising Dan Akroyd and one week later, Belushi as well. Again, Foster rejected her then only remaining son by biting him on the head. Why, I don’t know. Maybe two growing infants were too much for her. Belushi, and his head wound, moved in with Akroyd, and Olivier moved out. Akroyd was aloof at first, but Belushi continuously made endearing envoys of brotherly affection and the two soon bonded- again.

It seems wrong to profit from tragedy, but I can’t deny that I have. Now my days are filled with charm and sparkle as the boys grow. Each morning they greet me with sounds normally reserved for family. Sounds much like little motor cycles, whoomf, whoomf, whoomf, as they jump off their teddy bear looking to be fed and groomed. I mash their food, cook their vegetables, and mix their powdered milk twice a day. Each time, they climb onto the plate, all four feet, and gobble as fast as they can. They look up at me with over stuffed mouths and beautiful eyes full of trust. While they eat, I groom each one with a little tooth brush, first the back, then the sweet spot under each ear and finally the long wisp of a tail. There’s no hugging and holding allowed. The brothers must grow up knowing they are lemurs with proper behaviors so they can be ready to get along with future lemur girlfriends. I can tell you for certain that their charisma makes this very hard indeed.

Already time is marching on. They are growing fast and soon will move outside and grow ever more independent. Their father Olivier moved back in with Foster to try again this fall. Hopefully, they will have another infant next spring. I am hoping for a girl- just one. And I will be an outside observer again. But, I will always have my memories of raising Dan Akroyd and his brother Belushi - the blues brothers. And they will always be a special pair of lemurs no matter where they go from here. Whoomf, whoomf….

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