Feeling down about school, your love life or politics? Here's something to cheer you up—the Duke Lemur Center has three new babies.
Warble—a pygmy slow loris—arrived Jan. 18 as the most recent addition. She joins Gothicus, a Coquerel’s sifaka that was born via cesarean section Jan. 6, and Furia, another sifaka born Jan. 10. This is just the beginning of the lemur birth season, which typically lasts from the beginning of the calendar year to the end of summer.
“Lorises aren’t lemurs, but are prosimians closely related to lemurs,” wrote Sara Clark, director of the communications at the Lemur Center. “They’re the most endangered of the non-lemur prosimians, in part because of the illegal pet trade, which has a devastating effect on wild populations.”
The first infants born this year have been exceptional for several reasons, Clark noted. When Gothicus was born, he had the lowest birth weight of any surviving sifaka born at the Lemur Center.
“He was only 76 grams, so we had to hand-feed him around the clock for almost a week,” she said.
She explained that despite the circumstances surrounding his birth, Gothicus is now healthy and thriving.
Furia is the granddaughter of a lemur celebrity—her grandfather Jovian became famous for starring in the children’s television show "Zoboomafoo."
“All of our lemurs follow a specific naming theme for each species, so our sifakas tend to have names of Roman emperors, rulers or so on,” Clark said.
She also noted that different species of lemurs give birth at different times of year. Typically, the birth of sifakas begins the birth season each year. There are also other pregnant lemurs currently.
“We have a few lemurs that were confirmed pregnant by ultrasound—one is a blue-eyed, black lemur, and one is a mongoose lemur,” Clark said. “They should deliver in March.”
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She added though that it is possible for a sifaka infant from an out-of-season breeding to be delivered in May.
The number of infants born at the Lemur Center this year should be similar to the number born in years past, Clark noted. The Center aims to birth 10 to 15 infants each year.
“We don’t breed all of these species each year,” she said. “We do follow the Species Survival Plan for each species, so breeding is very carefully controlled by an organization that is made up of not just us but also a lot of other member zoos and facilities.”
Clark explained that a team of experts chooses the best pair of lemurs to mate based on a variety of genetic factors. Depending on where the two lemurs are located, they may breed at the Lemur Center or may have to travel cross-country to meet.
“You don’t want to have a lot of lemurs that are really similar genetically," she said. "You want the most diverse genetic population that you could have."
The birth season will likely last until dwarf and mouse lemurs give birth in the late summer.