The ghosts of Madagascar
Hi everyone! My name is Kathryn Scime, and I’m one of the new primate keepers here at Zoo Atlanta! I recently moved down from chilly Buffalo, New York to pursue my career at the Zoo. Before here, I worked at the Buffalo Zoo for five years, taking care of a variety of South American animals such as capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, vampire bats, tamanduas and red-footed tortoises. I thought I’d talk about some of my new favorite animals here at Zoo Atlanta for my first Keeper Story!
Because it’s Halloween, let’s talk about ghosts! Lemur in Latin actually means “ghost or spirit” and the Malagasy people believed that lemurs were similar to spirits because of their wide-eyed stare, loud vocalizations and nocturnal activity. Lemurs are a type of primate, however, they are neither a monkey nor an ape! Lemurs are known as prosimians. Did you know there are 101 known species of lemurs, and all are endemic to Madagascar? Here at Zoo Atlanta, we have ring-tailed, black-and-white-ruffed and crowned lemurs.
Ring-tailed lemurs are the most recognizable lemur, thanks to its long black and white striped tail (and a famous lemur known as “King Julian”). They are a more terrestrial species, meaning they spend the most time on the ground compared to other lemurs. Ring-tailed lemurs can also be seen sunning themselves on one of these beautiful Atlanta days. They sit in the most perfect yoga pose with their arms stretched out and enjoy the warm sun on their belly.
Black-and-white-ruffed lemurs (my personal favorite) are one of the largest lemur species. If you’ve visited Zoo Atlanta, you may have heard the loud barking and wailing howl of the black-and-white-ruffed lemur. These loud vocalizations are how these lemurs defend their territory from intruders. Black-and-white-ruffed lemurs are also amazing pollinators! The traveler’s tree, a large palm-like tree native to Madagascar, is a favorite nectar source for these lemurs. As the black-and-white-ruffed lemur drinks the nectar from the tree, pollen sticks to their fur and they carry the pollen to the next tree.
Crowned lemurs are the smallest species belonging to the genus Eulemur. They exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females look very different. In this case, the males are chestnut-brown color and the females are grey. Their name, crowned lemur, comes from the distinct crown shape mark across both the male and females’ brow line.
Lemurs are truly some amazing animals! Unfortunately, all lemurs are facing the threat of habitat destruction and are now considered the world’s most endangered group of mammals. Thankfully, there are numerous conservation efforts, breeding programs and research programs taking place to try to save lemurs and their habitat! One such group is the Madagascar Fauna and Flora group, which Zoo Atlanta proudly donates their proceeds from the Wild Encounters with our lemurs!
Although Lemur Wild Encounters at Zoo Atlanta have just ended for the season, there are other ways to donate to lemur conservation. Check out madagascarflaunaflora.org, or just be sure to visit Zoo Atlanta in the spring and sign up for a Lemur Wild Encounter! You’ll have the opportunity to meet and feed our awesome lemurs and donate to an amazing organization!
Keeper II, Primates