Durham County

Duke’s lemur baby boom includes niece of Zoboomafoo

It’s baby season at the Duke Lemur Center

‘Furia,’ a baby Coquerel’s sifaka, clings to her mother Gisela’s back as the two lemurs await peanut treats from primate technician Melanie Currie at the Duke Lemur Center on Wednesday. Furia was born on Jan. 10.
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‘Furia,’ a baby Coquerel’s sifaka, clings to her mother Gisela’s back as the two lemurs await peanut treats from primate technician Melanie Currie at the Duke Lemur Center on Wednesday. Furia was born on Jan. 10.

The Duke Lemur Center is welcoming a new batch of babies, including the niece of perhaps the most famous lemur of all.

Nine new babies have been born at the Duke Lemur Center so far this year.

Magdalena, an endangered Coquerel’s sifaka lemur, was born on May 14, very late in the season for lemur births. She’s the niece of the famous Zoboomafoo (aka Jovian). “Zoboomafoo” was a zoological children’s television series from 1999 to 2001 that featured a sifaka named Zoboomafoo, played by Jovian. Zoboomafoo’s home was the Duke Lemur Center, where he died at age 20 in 2014.

Magdalena’s parents are Rupillia and Luther. Rupillia (aka Rupi) was born in 1999 and is little sister to Zoboomafoo.

Rupi and Luther were introduced in early November and quickly became inseparable, entering an extremely out-of-season reproductive cycle in December, which is usually the beginning of sifaka birthing season. That led to Magdalena’s late birth.

Sifakas at the center are named for Roman nobility, and Magdalena was named for Empress Eleonora Magdalena.

Eight other babies were born at the center so far this year.

McKinnon and Poehler are two critically endangered blue-eyed black lemurs. (Yes, they’re named for actresses Kate McKinnon and Amy Poehler.) The two girls are especially significant additions to the center because there are just four blue-eyed black lemurs of breeding age in captivity in North America. Three of those live at the center in Durham. Blue-eyed black lemurs are threatened by habitat loss and forest fragmentation in their native Madagascar, and the small protected area that remains for them is susceptible to wildfires. The girls were born March 22 and 23.

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McKinnon with her mother, Wiig, in their forest enclosure. All of the DLC’s blue-eyed black lemurs are named after blue-eyed celebrities, and McKinnon was named after blue-eyed, blonde-haired actress Kate McKinnon. David Haring Duke Lemur Center

Ma’at, an endangered crowned lemur, was born on April 29. The little guy (center staff are guessing so far), is doing wonderfully and enjoying life with his parents, Mosi and Seshat, and siblings Seshen, 2, and Kek, 1, said Sara Clark, center spokeswoman.

Crowned lemurs like Ma’at are endangered because of habitat loss and the local pet trade, according to the center.

Bijou is a female collared lemur born April 5. Collared lemurs are endangered in Madagascar because of hunting for meat, the local pet trade and habitat loss from slash-and-burn agriculture required for traditional rice farming and burning hardwood trees to produce charcoal.

Nacho, born April 4, is a male mongoose lemur. Males like Nacho are born with white beards that turn reddish-brown when the infants are 5 to 6 weeks old. Mongoose lemurs are critically endangered for the same reasons as collared lemurs: hunting and habitat loss.

Earlier this year, the center welcomed Warble, a pygmy slow loris, along with Gothicus, a Coquerel’s sifaka, and Furia, another sifaka.

Furia is a granddaughter of Zoboomafoo.

Lemurs give birth at different times and have different gestation periods, but usually only breed once a year. Their breeding window is typically only a day or two per year.

“Lemurs, in order to breed, are going to have to be healthy,” Clark said. “They’re going to have to feel cared for and comfortable, and not be under stress. The fact that we are this good at breeding lemurs and caring for infants is a testament to the really high quality of research that is done here.”

About 230 lemurs live at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, and babies aren’t announced until about a month after they’re born, so they have enough time to grow healthy and strong while bonding with their mothers. Once they’re old enough, they can be added to the center’s tour.

For more information on the Duke Lemur Center, go to lemur.duke.edu.

Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett

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