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A birth full of hope at Zoo Wroclaw

2019-07-04
A  birth full of hope at Zoo Wroclaw

In the natural environment, they are literally vanishing. Last year's report shows the dramatic situation of all species of lemurs.

Over the last 24 years their population decreased by 80-95%. It is becoming increasingly clear that these Madagascar endemics have less and less chance of surviving in their natural environment. For these species, zoological gardens may be the only chance to survive. It is not surprising then that every lemur birth in the zoo is celebrated.  And today we have a triple reason to celebrate: two red ruffled and one black-and-white lemur were born.

According to the IUCN data, currently there are 108 species of lemurs, of which up to 93 are endangered. 28 conservation projects cover 41 species of lemurs, but it is still not enough. As a result of poaching and destruction of habitats, lemurs will disappear from the natural environment. It is already known that their only chance are protected reserves and zoological gardens. The reserves need not only financial resources to subsist. Even more so, they need economic aid of the local community, and education in the field of nature conservation. Without this help, the lemurs will continue to be victims of poachers, logging and burning forests for farmland. 

- Unfortunately, many species are also threatened by the climate change. For example, the red ruffled lemurs live only in a small part of Madagascar, the Masoala peninsula, where hurricanes become more intense and more frequent. This shows that each of us has an impact on the extinction of animals, be it in Madagascar or Palawan. Our daily consumer choices - a product with rare metal ores, exotic wood, palm oil, or the use of plastic packaging have a direct impact on the disappearance of natural habitats of plants and animals and on climate change, as well. - says Radosław Ratajszczak, president of the Wrocław zoo. 

The Wroclaw zoo and the DODO Foundation help save lemurs, supporting the Lemur Rescue Center - Reniala, which operates in Madagascar and saves these endemic prosimians.

As part of conservation breeding, five species of lemurs live in our zoo:

critically endangered red ruffled lemurs, Lac Alaotra bamboo lemurs and black and white ruffled lemurs. Endangered ring-tailed lemurs and vulnerable red bellied lemurs. This spring, Wrocław has already celebrated the birth of three ring-tailed lemurs. And now three ruffled lemurs were born: one black and white,  and two red ones.

The red ruffled lemur (Varecia rubra) is one of the largest primates in Madagascar and the largest among lemurs. Adult individuals reach 53 cm of body length and 3.5 kg of weight. Interestingly, females are slightly larger than males. They are meticulously clean animals, and they spend a lot of time grooming themselves and other members of the herd. This is one of the ways to build strong social ties. This behavior is so important that these lemurs have developed special adaptations to facilitate it. Their lower incisors turned into comb teeth, and one claw on each hind foot is used just to clean the fur!

 

The red ruffled lemurs are most active at dawn and at dusk, and spend most of their life in the treetops. Their diet consists of fruit, nectar and pollen, supplemented with invertebrates. Their preference for nectar and pollen makes these lemurs an extremely important part of the rain forest ecosystems in Madagascar. They are responsible for pollinating many species of trees.

Some red ruffled lemurs live in monogamous pairs. Most often however, they live in groups of 5 to 16 individuals. It was observed that in the rainy season, they merge into large packs, and when a difficult dry season comes, they break down into small groups.

 

Their life expectancy is 20 years in nature and up to 25 in captivity; the documented record is 33. They reach sexual maturity at the age of 2. The female gives birth on average every 2 years. They are the only lemurs that do not carry their young on their backs. They keep them in nests on trees, 10-20 meters above the ground. These nests are built of twigs, leaves, vines and fur. At the beginning, the female is the primary caretaker. Later on, the male takes over. The reproductive period of all lemurs falls on the rainy season when the food is abundant (May-July). The female give birth to 1 to 6 pups (usually 2 or 3). Unfortunately, an estimated 65% of the young doesn’t reach the age of three months - most often they fall out the tree nests.

The Wrocław group consists of 5 females, 6 males and two pairs of twins born on April 24 this year.  Zoo Wrocław has been breeding the red ruffled lemurs since 1985 when the first couple arrived from the zoo in Amsterdam. The first baby was born in April 1996. Since then, 21 individuals have been born in Wrocław. They live now in zoological gardens in Auvergne (France) and Pécs (Hungary), among others.

 

 - Our twins can’t go outside yet. You can see them inside the Madagascar pavilion. They are still nursed by their mother. They will be more independent in August. Of course, they already imitate the adults and try fruits. - says Andrzej Miozga, head of the Small Mammal Department.

The black and white ruffled lemurs (Varecia variegata) are very similar in many respects to their red cousins. They are similar in size, females are also slightly larger than males and they dominate. They also lead an arboreal lifestyle and build nests in the crowns of trees. Depending on the season, the size of the group changes, as well. What is different? They are active during the day and are very vocal. They have three pairs of nipples. The entire group takes care of the young, forming nursery nests. As a result, the survival rate of the young is higher than among the red ruffled lemurs. These lemurs communicate loudly. They signal their position and give off warnings. Interestingly, they don’t vocalize to mark the territory. They are the most fruit-eating lemurs; leaves, nectar, seeds or mushrooms make up only 10% of their diet. The black and white ruffled lemur has a greater range of occurrence than than the red one. However, their population is smaller. They live almost everywhere in the eastern Madagascar.

 

Wrocław’s group of the black and white ruffled lemurs consists of 3 females, 4 males and one toddler born on May 13 this year. The first one arrived in Wrocław in 2001. Since then 21 individuals were born. They now live, among others, in the zoos in Sóstó (Hungary), Torino (Italy) or Olomouc (Czech Republic)

According to ZIMS data (Zoological Information Management System) 672 red ruffled lemurs live in 187 zoological gardens in the world (about 20% of gardens).  840 black and white ruffled lemurs live in 247 zoos (about 25% of gardens). It seems to be a lot, but the estimated wild population of the red ruffled lemurs is only 590 individuals...

- When you are aware that there are so few individuals in the natural environment and their number is still decreasing, you look at each of these animals with even greater concern. It brings us joy to know that they feel comfortable and reproduce freely at our zoo. These little guys are the future of the species.

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