How do the lemurs get their names?

February 20, 2014 – It’s baby season at the Duke Lemur Center. In today’s post, Lemur Center technician Allie Blackwood explains how the new babies get their names:

Mouse lemur triplets Bluebell, Blackberry and Pipkin were born in June 2012.

Mouse lemur triplets Bluebell, Blackberry and Pipkin were born in June 2012.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Ahh, Shakespeare. Clearly he never worked at the Lemur Center. We here take great pride and much consideration into finding THE perfect name for each animal that lives here. And with 250+ animals, that’s a pretty big undertaking.

So how do we start? Well the first question is “who?” Each primate technician at the center has what we call a “primary section,” which is where the animals that he or she cares for every day of the week live. If someone within a tech’s primary section gives birth, that technician is responsible for (and honored to be!) choosing the infant’s name.

It’s made a tad easier for us because each species has a different naming theme. So while there are, no doubt, a plethora of fabulous lemur-worthy names out there, the naming world is not necessarily our oyster.

For example, the blue-eyed black lemurs are named after blue-eyed celebrities. That’s why you’ll hear us walking around the center saying things like “well, (Robert) Redford just didn’t like his broccoli today, but (Ann) Margret ate it all right up!” If you’re a fan of the Thor movies, you’ll love this year’s blue-eyed black boys: Hemsworth and Hiddleston!

The aye-ayes, those creatures of the night, are named after witches and wizards and other ghoulish things. Merlin, Poe, Morticia, and Elphaba are among the aye-ayes calling Durham home.

And what about those fun little guys, the mouse lemurs? They all have plant names, so things like herbs, spices, trees, vegetables, and flowers are all fair game. We’ve got Poblano, Daikon, and Huckleberry to name just a few.

As breeding season is upon us, we here at the center are looking forward to the next batch of names to be chosen. And, of course, waiting for those new personalities to shine through to help us choose the fabulous moniker meant for each new lemur!