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New lemurs move it, move it to Seattle

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Quick, name a zoo animal with black and white stripes…

Chances are you said “zebra.” But soon you might consider another possibility after you meet the newest Woodland Park Zoo additions, a colony of ring-tailed lemurs!

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Their debut marks the return of this endangered species to Seattle for the first time in nearly 20 years. 

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

That long tail striped with black and white rings gives the lemur its name and serves as a counter balance when leaping from tree to tree. 

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Ring-tailed lemurs use trees as a place to eat, nap, and interact with their troop mates, but this species can also be spotted on the ground more frequently than other lemurs.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

That’s where you might find them sunbathing in the morning, sitting in a yoga-like pose with limbs outstretched to maximize surface area while soaking up some rays. Us Seattleites, we know a thing or two about making the most of a sunny day, so these lemurs fit right in!

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

The all-male troop arrived together from Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska and made their first trek out into their exhibit last week. The oldest in the group is 7-year-old Reese. Reese is the father of 2-year-old Cash, 1-year-olds Tamole and Tahiry, and 11-month-old Bucky. The troop arrives to us as part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program among accredited conservation zoos. Providing a home for the bachelors here allows Lincoln Children’s Zoo room for their growing troop lead by a matriarch. 

Red-ruffed lemur at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Like their red-ruffed cousins—long-time residents of Woodland Park Zoo—this lemur species is endemic to Madagascar; they appear nowhere else in the wild outside of the island country. These endangered forest dwellers are facing a tough reality in the wild—their forests are disappearing and with them the rich biodiversity of Madagascar, much of which exists nowhere else on the planet. 

Frog breeding facility in Madagascar supported by Woodland Park Zoo’s Wildlife Survival Fund. Photo by Jenny Pramuk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation work takes us to Madagascar for another pocket of biodiversity in trouble—endemic frogs. Working with the Amphibians of Andasibe—a Wildlife Survival Fund project—we are helping locals develop breeding programs for critically endangered endemic frog species. Their field work, tracking and monitoring frog populations in the wild, is putting eyes in the forests, which is proving essential to protecting more than just the frogs of Madagascar. 

Protecting amphibian biodiversity in Madagascar can by extension protect habitat for other native species like the indri, one of the world's largest lemurs. Photo by Jenny Pramuk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Patrols to frog breeding sites last year revealed habitat destruction and signs of illegal logging at one site with nearly 200 trees felled, which local staff was able to report to Ministry authorities in the capital. Increasing awareness of the issues and turning locals into advocates mean there is hope for Madagascar’s unique wildlife. 

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Every visit to the zoo helps make this work possible. To spot the new lemurs on your next visit, head to the zoo’s Tropical Rain Forest and look for the colony in the marshy forest between the red-ruffed lemur and the colobus monkey exhibits. 


Susan Mullen said…
Will these males get a chance to live with a female at some point? I don't know how lemurs live in the wild, but since their home troop is headed by a female it seems like a more natural situation for them.
Anonymous said…
Why only males? If they are so endangered, why not include some females to increase the population?
Females are indeed dominant in ring-tailed lemur mixed groups, and males are known to leave and emigrate into new groups. Males have their own hierarchy with usually the oldest holding the highest rank. Now that we are part of the Species Survival Plan, we will work with other zoos to manage the population into the future, which may include opportunities for more group immigrations or emigrations, especially as our younger males mature.
One of the ways we are helping the Species Survival Plan is by providing a home for this bachelor troop, which in turn allows their home zoo to continue its successful breeding program and make room for additional offspring. As our young males mature, there may be future breeding opportunities for them down the line. By working collaboratively with other conservation zoos and managing the population as a whole across all our institutions, we are able to provide for the needs of each individual while keeping the big picture of overall population needs in mind.