The fidgety critter of Madagascar: a rare ring-tailed lemur born in the Moscow Zoo

May 11
Parks and pedestrian areas

A rare ring-tailed lemur has been born in the Moscow Zoo. The parents are Bella, aged 6, and Funtik, aged 10. 

“The zoo has eight Madagascar lemurs, including the newborn one. Bella and Funtik’s baby is still very small and vulnerable. The curious infant is exploring the world by itself, but when it gets tired, it climbs onto its mother’s or sister’s back. When it grows up, it may be moved to one of the leading Russian or foreign zoos,” said Moscow Zoo Director General Svetlana Akulova.

The young lemurs feed on their mother’s milk for the first three months and then they begin to try solid food. The diet of these primates is diverse: it includes various fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs and insects. At the zoo, they also receive vitamin and mineral supplements.

The enclosure of ring-tailed lemurs is located in the new area of the Moscow Zoo, near the House of Primates Pavilion. Other lemurs have accepted the new member of the family and even allow the baby to sit on their backs. The infant is actively exploring the enclosure and copies the habits of its older relatives.

The zoo is currently closed to visitors, but those interested can watch the baby lemur online. The zoo’s social network pages will post videos about the life of these primates.

Ring-tailed lemurs inhabit the forests of the south and southwest of Madagascar. Known locally as maky, they are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The number of these rare animals is decreasing due to poaching and the destruction of their habitat.

According to zoologists, there are some 2,000 ring-tailed lemurs in the wild, therefore the leading world zoos are working on the creation of a reserve population of Madagascar lemurs. The Moscow Zoo is taking part in the European programme to preserve this species.

In Russian, they are called ‘cat lemurs’ due to their size and cat-like manner of walking. These animals weigh from 2.5 to 3.5 kg. Their backs, paws and forehead are greyish-brown, while the muzzle, chest and belly are white. The bright yellow eyes are encompassed by black triangular patches giving their faces a mask-like appearance.

The lemur’s trademark is its long bushy tail ringed in alternating black and white transverse stripes, numbering over 10 rings. The tail can be over 50 cm long and weigh 1.5 kg. The tail is used for communication: for instance, during the mating period, males use their tails to attract females. Lemurs also use their tails to keep their balance when they jump among the trees during the day and to help keep themselves warm at night.

Photo courtesy of the Moscow Zoo press service

Ring-tailed lemurs live in groups of 20-30 animals, each led by a female that determines the relations between the group members. As a rule, females stay in the group in which they were born, while males often move to other groups. The lifespan of a Madagascar lemur in the wild rarely exceeds 16 years, while in captivity they can live for up to 30 years.

For a long time, lemurs have featured in numerous local legends. Indigenous people honoured and feared them, calling lemurs ghosts wandering in the night. After recent animated films featuring lemurs in leading roles, the animals became a popular exotic pet. However, ring-tailed lemurs are wild animals and zoologists do not recommend keeping them in a domestic environment.

Like many other facilities in Moscow, the Moscow Zoo is temporarily closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. But animal lovers can watch the zoo inhabitants online: live broadcasts are held at the enclosures of giant pandas, orangutans, squirrel monkeys and Diana monkeys. The feeding time is also recorded.

Last year, over 1,000 babies were born at the Moscow Zoo, among them southern ground hornbills, grey-winged trumpeters, Humboldt penguins, dik-diks, Eurasian lynxes, East Caucasian turs, crocodile newts, Sumatran orangutans, blue sheep, Mexican beaded lizards, fur seals, lion-tailed macaques and many others.

This year, the new additions included rare Dalmatian pelicans and bush dogs, as well as maned wolves, one of the rarest canidae species. In March, Humboldt penguins were born and now the Moscow Zoo is home to Russia’s largest group of these birds: nine breeding pairs and over a dozen birds of various ages, from chicks to adult penguins: 35 birds in all.



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