What A Rockin’ Year It’s Been!

World Lemur Day will be taking place on October 26, 2018, and we invite each and every one of you to join us in celebrating these fascinating animals at the San Diego Zoo’s Rady Madagascar Habitat and Falls in Africa Rocks.

It’s been an absolutely stupendous year for the lemurs living it up at the San Diego Zoo’s Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks! Our five species of lemurs made the big move to be the rock stars of the Madagascar Forest last September, and a lot has happened since.

Red-collared lemur Eulemur collaris

This past year, we welcomed two new lemurs into our lemur family: a new male red-collared lemur named Pierre, to be a new boyfriend to our female red-collared lemur Zaza; and a new female red ruffed lemur named Mena, to be a girlfriend to our male red ruffed lemur Ony. Since their arrivals, it’s been so enjoyable to observe the relationship between the pairs blossom from a friendship to what we hope will be a romantic relationship.

Red ruffed lemur Varecia rubra

On most days, you can catch Pierre and Zaza embraced in a full body hug with their tails wrapped around each other, cuddled up on the rock wall in the north exhibit (farthest from the waterfall). In the south exhibit (closest to the waterfall), you will find Ony trying to impress Mena by hanging upside down from the tree branches, showing off his fitness. It’s actually a species-specific behavior used for collecting nectar and fruit in the rain forest, but he looks very studly doing it.

Coquerel’s sifaka Propithecus coquereli

The leaping lemur couple, Agrippina and Thrax, our Coquerel’s sifakas, are now leaping the day away in the north exhibit, which is a change from where they were first introduced. This meant we had to train the sifakas to leap from their bedroom across the lemur building through the upper chute system to the north exhibit access door. We weren’t too sure how they were going to do with the long-distance travel, but as soon as we showed them a peanut and walked them through the chute, they leaped on through.

Blue-eyed black lemur Eulemur flavifrons

The “Blues Brothers,” Aykroyd and Belushi—the blue-eyed black lemur twins—can be seen rocking the day away on what I call their party rock, at the lower end of the south exhibit near the waterfall. They enjoy each other’s company and often stick together for their hijinks, like simultaneously scent-marking the rocks or taking naps on top of each other. Even with all these new additions and changes, we look forward to the next exciting phase…babies!

Ring-tailed lemur Lemur catta

Love is in the air for the ring-tailed lemurs. I’m looking forward to watching our male ring-tailed lemur, Armand, “stink flirt” with the female ring-tailed lemurs, Kaleena, Shabbazz, Taz, and Rosalita. Stink flirting is a species-specific behavior that ring-tailed lemur males do to woo the ladies after “stink fighting” with another male. It consists of the male transferring a strong scent from special glands on his wrist to “perfume” (but it’s more like stinking up) his tail, then waving it above his head so that the odor wafts over to the females. Let’s hope Armand’s “stink” is the right kind, and helps our females fall crazy in love with him.

It is extremely important that we have a successful breeding season in order to continue our effort to save lemurs from the brink of extinction. Unfortunately, lemurs have been declared the most endangered mammals on Earth. This past year the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission workshop in Madagascar concluded that 91 percent of the 103 known lemur species are threatened. It is a critical year to spread awareness for this unique species of primate and this year we will be celebrating World Lemur Day on October 26. We hope you will join us at the Madagascar Forest in Africa Rocks to appreciate this one-of-a-kind, magnificent creature!

Yeleny Smith is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous blog, World Lemur Day.