Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Bonjour, Mouse lemurs!
by Andrea Katz, Live Animal Curator
Our nine new mouse lemurs have finally arrived from France! These five females and four males, born in Dr. Martine Perret’s research center near Paris, will be the core of our rejuvenated breeding program for these fascinating, endearing nocturnal lemurs. The animals are all young, most under two years of age. Weighing less than 100 grams, a mouse lemur could sit in a teacup with room to spare.
Several of you responded generously to help fund this mouse lemur import, and we thank you again. It’s taken a full year to obtain all of the required permits, make arrangements for quarantine at a licensed Center for Disease Control (CDC) primate quarantine facility, and obtain confirmed bookings on a flight from Paris to the U.S. Without a doubt, this was the most complicated animal transfer we’ve organized in a long time.
But it was all worthwhile when finally in September, the nine mouse lemurs boarded a non-stop Air France flight to Chicago. At the airport, they were met by veterinary staff of the Saint Louis Zoo (SLZ), among our closest colleagues in the lemur world. SLZ had agreed to provide CDC quarantine for the animals, beginning the moment the animal crates touched down on U.S. soil (required for all primates entering the country). Our Veterinarian, Cathy Williams, assisted the Saint Louis Zoo team, helping with the physical exams on arrival and with the transition of the animals into quarantine. After a 30-day quarantine period with no health problems, the mouse lemurs boarded another flight from Saint Louis to Durham. With much excitement ,relief, and exclamations all around about how incredibly cute these tiny creatures are, we welcomed them to the DLC on October 15th.
The mouse lemurs are now housed in our Nocturnal Building, under the expert care of technicians Bevan Clark, Beth Grim and Rebecca Borns. Their special diet consists of crushed primate chow, diced fruits and veggies, crickets and mealworms. We have great hopes that spring will bring successful breeding, with infants born in the summer after a short gestation period of only two months. This breeding program is critical for the DLC’s research and conservation goals for nocturnal lemurs, and also for the future survival of mouse lemurs in all of North America. Before we obtained these young mouse lemurs, the species was dying out in captive programs because the few remaining animals were too old to reproduce. So raise a glass- of French wine if you’d like- to welcome the new mouse lemurs to the DLC!