A baby Coquerel’s Sifaka (CAHK-ker-rells she-FAHK), an endangered Lemur species from Madagascar, was born at the Saint Louis Zoo’s Primate House on January 9, 2011. This is the third baby for mother, Almirena (al-mah-REE-nah), age eight, from the Los Angeles Zoo, and father Caligula, age 12, from Duke Lemur Center. Almirena is a great mother and the newborn is very strong, according to zookeepers. For about a month, the baby held onto mom's belly, but has recently "graduated" to riding on her back. Zookeepers are observing the infant and mother every day, and a name will be chosen once it can be determined if it’s a male or female.
The Saint Louis Zoo is one of only eight institutions in the U.S. that is home to this species. The Zoo’s sifakas are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Coquerel’s Sifaka Population Management Plan, which is responsible for maintaining a genetically healthy population of sifakas in North American zoos. The birth of this rare lemur in St. Louis represents a valuable genetic contribution to the North American sifaka population.
Lemurs are a group of primates that can be found only in Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world. The other primates, monkeys and apes, never reached the island. Without their competitive cousins, lemurs diversified to live in the varied habitats that occur in Madagascar.
Like many other types of lemurs, the Coquerel's sifaka is in danger of extinction in the wild. These animals suffer from continued habitat loss, as their forest homes are logged for timber and turned into farmland.
The Saint Louis Zoo is home to the international headquarters of the Madagascar Fauna Group, a consortium of zoos and aquariums committed to conserving lemurs and other wildlife species within their native habitat.