Say hello to Duke’s two newest residents: a pair of critically endangered animals, who happen to be the nephew and grandson of Zoboomafoo.
The Duke Lemur Center recently announced the birth of Terence and Didius, two Coquerel’s sifaka lemurs. They join 30 other sifakas housed at the Center. Additionally, Terence and Didius are the nephew and grandson, respectively, of Jovian, who starred on the PBS show “Zoboomafoo” from 1999 to 2001. Martin Kratt, Trinity ‘89, graduated with a degree in zoology and hosted “Zoboomafoo” with his brother, Chris.
Terence and Didius are the newest births since Melisandre, an aye-aye, arrived last summer, followed closely by Cedar and Magnolia, grey mouse lemur twins, arrived last summer. Marie, previously the youngest sifaka, was born last February. The name sifaka refers to the hissing noise that this critically endangered species makes.
“The arrivals of these two infants remind us, even in difficult times, of the power that lemurs have to make us smile,” said Greg Dye, executive director of the DLC, in the announcement. “New births bring joy and instill hope; and we’ll continue to do everything we can to protect lemurs from extinction even in such uncertain times.”
Terence was born Jan. 21 to Rupi and Gordian, and Didius a day later to Gisela and Rupert. Both were healthy infants from birth and have since grown steadily, with Didius gaining about a gram per day. To help ensure the infants’ survival, the DLC gave each infant and his mother some privacy during those first weeks of vulnerability, housing each pair in the “nursery suite” separate from the fathers and siblings. Due to the tender stomach linings of sifakas, the DLC is the only place that has a stable population of the species in North America, and researchers are especially cautious.
In accordance with tradition, the DLC named these new sifakas after ancient Roman authors and royalty. Other sifaka names include Marcus Aurelius, Drusilla and Calpurnia III.
Considered critically endangered, Coquerel’s sifakas face high risk of extinction in the wild. Some hypothesize that the wild population has decreased by 50% in the last 50 years, with habitat loss and hunting in their native Madagascar primarily driving these losses. Thanks to the work of the DLC, which loans out 32 sifakas in locations around the United States, including zoos in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, researchers have developed husbandry techniques to keep sifakas thriving in captivity.