The animals at the Duke Lemur Center consist exclusively of prosimian primates. These are the primates that evolved before monkeys and apes, and are representative of the early primates that existed fifty million years ago. The Lemur Center houses three groups of living prosimians. In this section we would like to introduce you to the lemurs of Madagascar, the lorises of Asia and the galagos (bushbabies) of Africa.
What is a lemur and what does the word “lemur” mean?
A lemur is a type of prosimian primate that is wild only on the island of Madagascar. Lemur in Latin means “ghost” and many of the Malagasy people believe lemurs are similar to spirits or ghosts because of their haunting stare and night activity.
How did lemurs get to Madagascar?
Madagascar broke away from Africa/India about 100 million years before lemurs ever existed. Scientists believe lemurs and other mammals reached Madagascar via “rafting” on clumps of vegetation, or trees.
What do lemurs eat?
Lemurs eat leaves, flowers, fruit, and insects. At the Lemur Center, they also eat special monkey chow biscuits (loaded with nutrients). In our natural habitat enclosures, lemurs eat all kinds of North Carolina plants, including poison ivy.
Who are their predators?
There are two aerial predators, hawks and eagles, who will take infants; and one ground predator, the fossa who is nocturnal and will take adults or babies that don’t climb high enough in a tree to sleep. Humans, either by destroying their habitat or hunting lemurs for food, are the lemurs’ #1 predators.
What happens when the lemurs at the Lemur Center become sick?
We have a veterinarian who works full time at the center.Our veterinarian treats the lemurs when they are sick. She can perform surgery if they have an injury that requires it.
Are the lemurs at the Lemur Center pets?
No! We want our animals to live in an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible. We want our animals to behave the way they would in the wild, i.e. foraging, socializing with other lemurs, breeding and warning one another of potential predators. Another way we keep them “wild,” is by not handling them unless it is absolutely necessary.