On April 9, a rare Blue-eyed Black Lemur at La Palmyre Zoo gave birth to a tiny female. Due to a low birth weight, the newborn was transferred to the zoo’s nursery.
According to the zoo, there are only about thirty individuals in the Blue-eyed Black Lemur European Endangered Species Programme (EEP); therefore, each birth is of crucial importance.
For the past month, the nursery team at La Palmyre Zoo has been taking care of the small, fragile female, who has been named Ikopa. Keepers feed her milk every two hours, from 8am to 9pm. Since two weeks of age, she has also been given fruits (apple, pear, kiwi) and vegetables (salad, cucumber).
Ikopa’s parents and older brother (born in 2015) have been transferred to an adjacent cage so the family can maintain visual and sound contact between all the individuals. When weaning is completed, Ikopa will be reintroduced to her parents and sibling.
As for the keepers, they are in contact with the baby only for feeding her or when the incubator is to be cleaned (imprinting being the worst enemy of the animals raised at the nursery).
The Blue-eyed Black Lemur (Eulemur flavifrons), also known as the “Sclater's Lemur”, is a species of true lemur. It inhabits primary and secondary sub-tropical moist and dry forests in the northwestern tip of Madagascar.
The species can attain a body length of 39–45 cm, a tail length of 51–65 cm- a total length of 90–100 cm, and a weight of 1.8-1.9 kg. A primate, this lemur has strong hands with palms like a human, which have a rubbery texture to give it a firm grip on branches. Its tail is longer than its body and non-prehensile.
Active during day and night, the Blue-eyed Black Lemur lives in multi-male/multi-female groups of up to a dozen individuals. It feeds mainly on fruits and leaves. Like many other lemur species, females are dominant over males.
In the wild, females give birth to one or two offspring in June or July, after a gestation of 120 to 129 days. The young are weaned after about 5–6 months, and reach maturity at about 2 years of age. They may live between 15–30 years in captivity.
A victim of habitat fragmentation (slash and burn destruction) and poaching, it is currently classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. It is believed that only about 1,000 individuals remain in the wild.
The Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens (AEECL), supported by La Palmyre Zoo since 2002, has been developing a conservation program in the home range of the species in Sahamalaza (northwestern Madagascar), where eco-guards protect the forest from fires and illegal incursions, the area being recognized as a national park since 2007. The AEECL also supports the education of children and the sustainable development of communities.