Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer in the Forest at Duke Lemur Center

by David Haring, Registrar

It is fitting that the second group released into the forest from Aty Ala (The new releasable building at Duke Lemur Center) contains an exalted Lemur Center veteran, Tiberius, born here in 1988. Since I was Tiberius’s caretaker from the day he was born until the day he shipped to the Los Angeles Zoo for breeding purposes at the age of eight, he holds a special place in my heart. Due to his absence for the last fourteen years, it is somewhat surprising that of the six sifaka in the group (Rupilia the 11 year old matriarch, her daughter Irene 3.5 years old, son Gaius 1.5 years old, and infant Romulus, sired by Tiberius last summer), Tiberius is the only one with free ranging experience. In fact he free ranged in three different DLC enclosures during his first eight years (NHE1, NHE3 and NHE6) and has about 19 months of forest living experience under his belt. He spent over 11 months free ranging in NHE 6 with his first mate, Marcella, and their offspring, Nero, until he was removed for re-pairing with another female, Pulchra, and introduced to NHE 3 in August 1995. He left Marcella and Nero behind in NHE 6, and Marcella was introduced to a new male, Trajan.

Interestingly (and somewhat scandalously), Nero was ejected from his group by Trajan in 1996, and was eventually paired with the young Rupilia. Nero and Rupilia then produced three offspring: Lucius, Gaius and Irene. After Nero’s untimely death in 2008, Tiberius was called back from the Los Angeles Zoo and introduced to Rupilia and her offspring (his grandchildren!). More than willing to fill his son’s shoes, Tiberius and Rupilia bred successfully last summer. Now, it will be interesting to see how the old man copes with his return to the forest. Will he be able to help his na├»ve group learn the ropes of forest locomotion and free ranging, or will he be content to sit on the ground (as he has become accustomed to doing in his early dotage), simply lounging around? At his age he deserves to lounge, but my guess is that he will rise to the occasion and help lead his group (at least as much as any male sifaka is allowed to lead) as they learn the intricacies of free-ranging.

One final interesting fact is that Tiberius and Pyxis both lived in the same enclosure (NHE6E) from the time of Pyxis’ birth in May 1995, until Tiberius’ removal in August 1995. However, it is doubtful that there was any close interaction between the strapping young male sifaka and the infant red-ruffed lemur, as Pyxis’ mother, Galaxy, would have definitely discouraged any investigation by Tiberius or his group of her infant daughter! Since Tiberius and Pyxis now live in adjacent enclosures (NHE 7 and NHE 8), the closest they will come to a reunion is to look across the fence at each other.

For the remainder of this spring and summer, plans call for the introduction of an additional nine lemur groups into the four NHEs surrounding Aty Ala. Here is a brief rundown of which groups will be released into what enclosures in the weeks to follow: NHE 6 (now 4.2 acres) will house a breeding group of black and white ruffed lemurs and their offspring (Kizzy’s group, currently four animals) and a ring-tailed lemur trio with their two offspring (Schroeder’s group). NHE 7 (6 acres) will house Rupilia’s group, and a trio of mongoose lemurs. NHE 8 (6.6 acres) will house Pyxis’ group, a breeding group of collared lemurs and a pair of red bellied lemurs. Finally NHE 9 (3.5 acres) will be comprised of a family group of Coquerel’s sifaka (Drusilla’s group of five animals), a ring-tailed lemur group (Sprite’s with ten animals) and a breeding pair of blue-eyed lemurs (Foster and her mate). Should be an interesting summer to say the least!

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