Taronga Western Plains Zoo, in Australia, has welcomed a baby Ring-tailed Lemur! The female Lemur, which Keepers have named Imerina (after one of the old kingdoms of Madagascar), was born on August 25.
Zoo Keepers are thrilled with this breeding success, which comes three years after the arrival of three female Lemurs from Italy to commence the Zoo’s Ring-tailed Lemur breeding program.
“It’s wonderful to have a successful breeding season and a healthy baby on the ground,” Keeper Sasha Brook said. “Imerina is a strong baby and first time mother, Rikitra, is doing all the right things, nursing and grooming her baby well, which is great to see.”
In the past two to three weeks, Keepers have been delighted to see Imerina starting to explore a little bit independently of her mother.
“She has started to climb on her own and is also starting to mouth solid foods,” Sasha said. “Rikitra is never more than one to two meters away, keeping a watchful eye on her offspring, and rescuing her from any pickles she gets herself into! Imerina is also starting to jump onto her father Bruce’s back. Bruce is an experienced father so he’s taking things in his stride.”
For the short term, Keepers have separated Rikitra and her baby, along with Bruce, from the group’s two other females, to give them time to bond and prevent interference from the females.
“The family is currently alternating access to their island exhibit with the two females, and during the day they have access to their night yards so they can choose to go where they feel most comfortable,” Sasha said. “In time we will introduce the two females back to the group, as it’s important to keep the group cohesive. The females enjoy each other’s company usually; but we’re giving them some space.”
When Imerina grows up she will play a vital role in the Zoo-based Ring-tailed Lemur breeding program, and with Lemurs endangered in the wild due to habitat destruction, her birth is very important for the future of her species.
The Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) is a large strepsirrhine primate and the most recognized lemur, due to its coloring and tail. It is endemic to the island of Madagascar.
They are omnivorous and terrestrial. They are also highly social, living in groups of up to 30 individuals.
The Ring-tailed Lemur is polygynandrous. The breeding season generally runs from mid-April to mid-May. Gestation lasts for about 135 days. In the wild, one offspring is normal, although twins may occur. Infants have a birth weight of about 2.5 oz., and they are carried ventrally (on chest) for the first one to two weeks, then dorsally (on the back).
The young begin to eat solid food after two months are fully weaned after five months. Sexual maturity is reached between 2.5 and 3 years.
Despite reproducing readily in captivity and being the most populous lemur in zoos worldwide, numbering more than 2,000 individuals, the Ring-tailed Lemur is listed as “Endangered” by the IUCN Red List due to habitat destruction and hunting for bush meat, as well as the exotic pet trade.