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Leapin' Lemur! Rare Sifaka Born at St. Louis Zoo

A tiny sifaka lemur was born at the St. Louis Zoo on February 16, 2009. Lemurs are primates like monkeys, apes, and humans, and sifakas have five fingered hands complete with thumbs. Baby sifakas use their strong grasp to cling tightly to their mothers for the first month or so, as these pictures clearly demonstrate.

Sifaka Saint Louis Zoo 1

Sifaka Saint Louis Zoo 2a

Sifaka Saint Louis Zoo 2

Photo credits: Robin Winkelman/Saint Louis Zoo


A baby Coquerel’s sifaka (CO-cue-rals she-FAK), an endangered lemur species from Madagascar, was born at the Saint Louis Zoo on February 16. 

This is the first baby for mother, Almirena (al-mah-REE-nah), age 6, from the Los Angeles Zoo, and father Caligula, age 10.  Almirena is a great mother and the newborn is very strong, according to zookeepers. The baby will hold on to mom's belly for about a month, then "graduate" to riding on her back. 

Visitors can see mother and baby indoors at the Primate House every day. Because infants will readily climb onto any other sifaka, Almirena and baby are temporarily living in separate habitats from the father. He will join them soon. 

Sifakas are among the most amazing types of lemurs because of their long, frog-like legs. Clinging to the trunk of a tree, sifaka can kick off with their powerful legs and leap more than 30 feet to another tree. On the ground, with arms raised, they move in a charmingly odd bipedal hop. 

The Saint Louis Zoo is one of only eight institutions in the U.S. that are 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.