Births Of Rare Lemurs At Duke Primate Center

April 08, 1998

Note to editors: To arrange interviews or filming of the new lemur babies, contact Dorothy Clark or David Haring at (919) 489-3364. A color photo, by David Haring, of the hand-raised baby aye-aye being fed is available on the web as a jpeg image at <ftp://152.3.242.19/pub/primates>, under the slug "aye-aye."

DURHAM, N.C. -- The Duke Primate Center was greeted this spring with the birth of an unusual number of babies of rare species.

This spring's infant crop include:

  • Three Coquerel's sifakas: Livia II, Eugenius and Antonia. Sifakas are agile, long-limbed animals, and Coquerel's sifakas have striking maroon and white fur.

  • A golden-crowned sifaka baby, bringing the total number of these beautiful animals in captivity to four, all of which are at the Primate Center.

  • Two aye-aye babies, one of which has remained with its mother, and another which is being hand-raised, since its mother was unable to feed it. A third aye-aye, Ozma, is pregnant. Aye-aye are exotic, gnome-like nocturnal lemurs that roughly resemble a cross between a bat, a beaver and a raccoon.


Primate Center officials said the little animals represent confirming evidence that the center understands the nutritional and maintenance needs of the highly endangered animals.

Colony Manager David Haring said this spring represented a "highly successful" birthing period for these three rare species.

"The number of births is especially large for the aye-aye, because of the lengthy period between births for that species," he said. "And this is only the second birth ever for the golden-crowned sifakas."

The first golden-crowned infant born in captivity last year died, Haring said, but the Primate Center hopes this second infant will represent the first successful birth for the sifakas.

Haring also said the Coquerel's sifakas are proving highly successful breeders, with all four of the center's breeding pairs giving birth this year.

The Primate Center, which is supported by the National Science Foundation and private donations, houses the world's largest collection of endangered primates. Duke is also the only university that concentrates on studying and protecting "prosimians" such as lemurs, lorises and tarsiers

Prosimians descended from primitive primates that were also ancestors to anthropoids, which includes monkeys, apes and humans. Thus, by studying prosimians, scientists can obtain analogous insights into the early history of apes and humans.

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The Primate Center has launched a "Name the Aye-aye" contest to give lemur lovers a chance to name one of the baby aye-ayes. For a $5 donation, entrants can suggest a "scary" name for a baby aye-aye. Names already taken include Endora, Ozma, Morticia, Poe, Mephistopheles, Nosferatu, Merlin, Blue Devil, Cruella de Vil and Calaban.

Entrants should come up with names for a male and female aye-aye (since even experts have trouble telling the sexes apart at birth). The names should be written on a 3x5 index card, including the entrant's name and address and sent -- along with a $5 check -- to ATTN: Aye-aye, The Duke University Primate Center, 3705 Erwin Road, Durham, N.C. 27705.

The winner will be decided on June 1, and will receive a free tour of the center and have his or her photo taken with the baby aye-aye.
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Duke University

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