After hearing about the opening of new enclosures at Duke’s Lemur Center, I had a unique opportunity to join the Nasher Museum staff as guinea pigs last week. Because there were so many of us who wanted to see these cute little guys, we had to split into two groups.
We started with the nocturnal lemurs, learning that the Lemur Center was home to animals other than lemurs, like the Bush Babies and the Lorises. We picked up other tidbits, like Aye Ayes have a tapping finger which has the same flexibility as a human’s shoulder. As we went into this small dark room with red lights, I expected to not be able to see the lemurs very well and for them to all be hiding from us, but this was certainly not the case! We saw all of the little lemurs and they were all willing to look right at us from the glass doors. The Bush Babies were very cute, and one was kissing his friend, while the other one kept on staring at us. The Aye Aye kept showing off and was running laps around his cage, which we all thought was very adorable. And the Fat Tailed Dwarf Lemur (cutest name ever) kept coming directly up to the glass and then would sprint away as soon as he got there. That little fellow was definitely my favorite. He was only about 6 inches, yet was full of energy, which our tour guide said was very unusual for that species. Our tour guide also told us that NASA is studying Fat Tailed Dwarf lemurs because of their unique way of hibernating, called “torpor,” in hopes of learning the secret to sustained space travel.
Although I did not want to leave, we said our goodbyes to our little friends in the nocturnal area and headed over to the brand new outdoor enclosures that opened just last week for summer tours. It was a very peaceful area – it even had a small waterfall – and truly demonstrated how well the lemurs were taken care of. The lemurs themselves encircled this area in six large cages that each contained two lemurs (both a male and a female). We went around to each of their areas and learned about those lemurs and what made them different. There were the famous Ringtailed Lemurs, Coquerel’s Sifaka, Common Black Lemurs, Red-Ruffed Lemurs, Crowned Lemurs and Collared Lemurs. One thing that I learned was that Ring-Tailed lemurs, because of their wet nose, might have the best sense of smell of all the animals in the world. Our tour guide said that they can even communicate through smell!
Speaking of our tour guide, throughout the whole tour, he was extremely friendly and was very interested in our impressions. He really made me feel that these animals were loved, and I believe that there could be no place better for these wonderful pre-monkeys than the Duke Lemur Center. I highly recommend making the trip out to see them, even if you have been before. The recent additions give a new feel to the whole center, and it is a must see for any friend of animals.