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Lemur Center auctions lemurs to raise awareness

More than 100 families flocked to the Duke Lemur Center in the hopes of finding a new sort of animal to call their own.

The center hosted its semi-annual adopt-a-lemur night—Lemurpalooza—Friday. The event featured information sessions on the unique primates, art opportunities for children, raffles and food from local Durham hotspots. It also provided guests the opportunity to adopt a lemur for a year, during which the center will chip in to cover a portion of the lemur's care fees in return for personal updates and photographs.

“It costs $7,400 a year to take care of one of these animals,” explained Adopt a Lemur coordinator Janice Kalin. “This amount is almost entirely covered by the donations we receive from this event.”

Lemurpalooza attendance has grown significantly since its 2013 creation, when around 40 community members came out to the center. Kalin explained that upwards of 120 families expressed interest in joining this year’s Fall event.

“It’s a great opportunity for families to come because they can take their time with the animals. The lemurs are engaging and fun to meet. It’s just such a casual, laid back type of environment,” Kalin said.

Program participant Susan Marks and her daughters spoke enthusiastically of their connection with Thistle, a female mouse lemur they adopted last year.

“We have not only adopted lemurs, we got [my daughter’s] school to do a field trip out here to visit Thistle,” Marks said.

Former Duke financial administrator turned Lemur Center volunteer, George Kolasa, provided insight into his own affection for the Center’s lemurs, many of which are named after famous celebrities.

“Elvis Presley is my favorite lemur here. He’s a blue-eyed black lemur,” Kolasa said. “These lemurs are actually one of the only primate species that have blue eyes.”

Their piercing eyes are one of the many qualities unique to lemurs. The critically endangered primates can jump up to 30 feet between tree trunks and many parade different fur colors throughout life as a result of their extreme sexual dimorphism. Television programs like "Lemur Kingdom" and "Zoboomafoo" have brought the distinctive creatures wider notoriety.

Since its founding in 1966, Duke’s Lemur Center has become the world’s largest sanctuary for the animals outside of their native Madagascar.


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