Thursday, May 27, 2010

Duke Lemur Center says, "Viva Las Vegas!"


What’s so special about Anne Margret and Elvis Presley besides staring in a great classic movie? Well, Margret and Presley are also the names of the two adorable twins born to Jody Foster at the Lemur Center on March 21st.

Confused? Let’s start at the beginning. Remember Foster? She’s a 14 year old blue eyed black lemur (Eulemur macaco flavifrons), one of only 9 flavifrons females in captivity in North America (males are much more plentiful with a population of 20). Flavifrons are a highly endangered subspecies of black lemur. Last year Foster gave birth to the famous blues brother twins, Akroyd and Belushi. (Stay tuned to the DLC blog for their first year birthday update as they graduate to free ranging in the forests of our facility this summer.) This year, Foster gave birth to another set of twins, and this time, one is a very special color.

RED…the color of hope for this species -the color of females. Mother Nature gives hope in small doses and this one comes in the form of a little red furry bundle of energy named Margret. All flavifrons are born red to blend in with their mother’s fur. But at about 6 weeks, the males turn black. It’s an anxious time for care takers who every day strain their eyes at two clinging infants wanting to see only red and trying to deny any hint of black fur growing. This year, Margret stayed red. She and her brother Presley are so far the only flavifrons infants born in captivity in North America and possibly the world this year. And Margret is the first female to be born at the Lemur Center since 2004.

Hope for this species could grow if only humans help. Foster is the only successful flavifrons mother in captivity at this time and even she needs help. Only 5 ½ weeks into their lives, Foster rejected her infant male Presley, just as she did the year before to the blues brother twins (when they were two months old). She left Presley with scratches across his fore head, alone on the floor. In efforts to save him, care takers took him for hand raising and made a heart wrenching decision - they would pull Margret off her mother too. Margret is too valuable to lose. With her mother Foster possibly nearing the end of her reproductive years, Margret must survive.

The future is uncertain for this stunning subspecies. Flavifrons don’t enjoy a great deal of protection in the wild. Their native ranges are mostly outside of parks and protected lands. This leaves them vulnerable to human impact. If Margret survives, and has many daughters of her own, the SSP (species survival plan) manager for this species will need to provide her and her offspring with a home (and mates), either at the Duke Lemur Center or at qualified zoos across the country. And who knows? Perhaps one day attempts may be made to reintroduce blue-eyed lemurs to protected habitat in Madagascar!

For now, Margret and Presley cling to their teddy bear mom and enjoy grooming from caring technicians with a tiny tooth brush. They are growing well and developing more each day playing with swings and branches and tasting new foods.

Intrinsic value is wrapped up in the wonderful emotions people experience from the existence of something. Take a look at Margret and Presley and discover how great the value of their little blue eyes can be.
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