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Four Aye-Aye lemurs die from mysterious disease Wednesday

<p>Four aye-aye lemurs died last October because of toxins in avocados that they were fed.&nbsp;</p>

Four aye-aye lemurs died last October because of toxins in avocados that they were fed. 

Four of the Duke Lemur Center’s endangered Aye-Ayes have died from unknown causes, the University announced Wednesday.

Two females and two males—ranging in age from seven to 28—succumbed to a mysterious ailment in rapid succession Tuesday, the Duke Today release noted. The lemurs were named Moriticia, Norman Bates, Merlin and Anjelique.

“We have experienced a tragedy,” the Lemur Center’s Director Anne Yoder said in the release. “The staff is devastated.”

Tuesday afternoon, two lemurs were transported to the center’s emergency care unit after a staff member observed their lethargic behavior. The first one died within 20 minutes.

Video cameras from the lemurs’ enclosure show that the animals' behavior appeared normal until 2 p.m. Tuesday.

“This is the most significant loss we’ve ever had and is a terrible blow to our breeding program,” said Andrea Katz, the center’s animal curator, in the release. “This is a significant percentage of the aye-ayes in the U.S. at this time.”

There are now nine Aye-Ayes left alive at the center—of the fewer than 50 held in captivity around the world.

Lemur Center veterinarian Bobby Schopler said it is unlikely that an infectious agent caused the lemurs’ deaths but noted that the center is investigating the situation.

The staff of the Lemur Center is closely monitoring the remaining lemurs, which currently do not show any signs of illness.

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