Cotswold Wildlife Park is celebrating the arrival of the first-ever Crowned Sifaka to be born in Great Britain. The baby male, named Yousstwo, is the first baby for new parents Bafana and Tahina. Cotswold Wildlife Park is the only mainland zoological collection in Great Britain to keep this endangered Lemur species.
Bafana arrived at the Park in 2009 from Besancon Zoo in France. Tahina joined him in 2013, from the same zoo, and the pair formed an instant bond. They are the only breeding pair in the country. Tahina is also the first hand-reared Sifaka in history to parent-rear her own offspring and is proving to be an exceptional mother.
The birth was caught on a closed-circuit camera which had been installed so keepers could keep an eye on Tahina without disturbing her.
Females are only sexually receptive for just one or two days a year, so the window of opportunity for males to father offspring is small. After a gestation period of approximately 165 days, females give birth to a baby completely covered in white fur and weighing less than four ounces. Infants are able to grip their mother’s fur from birth and they cling onto her belly for the first few weeks of life. After eight weeks, they start to develop the distinctive darker markings the Crowned Sifaka is famous for. They become independent at around six months old.
Last week, Yousstwo ventured outside for the first time and has been seen leaping from his mother’s back and exploring his new home.
Lemurs are native only to Madagascar. Despite having only one natural predator on the island, the Fossa, many Lemur species are critically endangered. Human activities such as deforestation, hunting, and rapid agricultural growth have placed enormous pressure on the island’s unique wildlife. Madagascar is now considered to be one of the world’s top conservation priorities. Habitat loss has had a catastrophic effect on Lemur populations. Timber is being smuggled out of Madagascar at an alarming rate. In 2010, custom officers at Mombasa seized 420 tons of illegally felled Malagasy rosewood timber worth an estimated $13 million. Approximately 90% of the island’s forests and ecosystems have been denuded.
The Cotswold Wildlife Park Conservation Trust was established in 2013 to fund vital conservation projects to preserve future generations of Madagascar’s rarest Lemurs, including the Crowned Sifaka and critically endangered Greater Bamboo Lemur.