This week I’ve got an update for you on how our baby ring-tailed lemurs are doing! Now just over seven weeks old, the six babies are gradually becoming more independent and starting to explore their enclosure.
Our oldest babies belong to Rainbow and Paris, both themselves fairly young females at six and four years old respectively. If you’ve visited our walk-through enclosure and seen three bouncing about, you have most likely seen theirs! Although ring-tailed lemurs will usually have just one baby per year, twins are occasionally seen and our one pair this year belongs to Rainbow. Babies will initially cling to their mum’s chest so as to be closer to her milk, but will move around to her back once they get a bit too big. They need to cling on very tightly as the mums leap from tree to tree with little regard as to whether the babies are still attached! As the babies reach two months old, they will start to investigate solid food, but will return to their mum for milk until fully weaned at around five months.
Why do lemur mums keep their babies close for so long? In their native Madagascar, predators of the ring-tailed lemur include the fossa, a large carnivore which looks like a cross between a cat and a dog but is in fact related to neither, and birds of prey such as the Madagascar harrier-hawk and the Madagascar buzzard. Out of all lemur species found in Madagascar, ring-tails spend the most time on the ground so are naturally more vulnerable, although group sizes are large and can reach up to 30 individuals – this can help them spot predators early and defend against them. All females in a troop will help to look after the babies, though it is thought that males don’t contribute much!
Our lemur babies are getting bolder by the day and it’s particularly easy to see them when the sun is out and everyone spreads out to sunbathe. May is getting warmer, so why not visit them this month in their walk-through enclosure?