A new initiative for lemurs in Madagascar

Andrea Katz, who served as the Duke Lemur Center Curator since 2006, has just moved into a new and exciting role: Program Manager, Madagascar Conservation Initiatives! Working with the Government of Madagascar, she will undertake a program to advance animal husbandry, welfare, and breeding programs for ex situ lemur populations in Madagascar.

Lemur collections are found in 14 zoos in Madagascar, where a total of 645 lemurs of 20 threatened species live within human care. There are many challenges in the Malagasy zoos: animal care and management are inconsistent and species knowledge is variable. No national standards exist, and while some zoos are fairly well managed, others have inadequate housing and husbandry (animal care) practices. The origins of many lemurs are unknown, and the illegal acquisition of wild-caught animals is not uncommon. The type of standardized record-keeping needed for development of an accurate national database is lacking. There is little collection planning and only rare instances of animal exchanges at the national level to improve genetic and demographic diversity in breeding programs. Furthermore, the Government of Madagascar (GOM) must use these zoos for the placement of confiscated wild and pet lemurs from persons holding them illegally, which poses an additional challenge to collection management and animal welfare.

The GOM’s Wildlife Department has requested the assistance of the Duke Lemur Center to advance the state of lemur husbandry and breeding management in Madagascar’s zoos. The lemur collections in Madagascar, if well-managed and cared for, are a safety net against species extinction – as is the DLC collection. Those lemurs and their descendants could one day be reintroduced to Madagascar’s forests, to enhance or re-establish wild populations. DLC staff are uniquely qualified to respond to this need, given our long history specializing in lemur care, welfare, and breeding, together with our 35+ years’ conservation and research experience in Madagascar.

Andrea’s first-year goals are to:

(1) Build local capacity via training of Malagasy zoo staff; hold a training course in Madagascar
(2) Produce a comprehensive lemur care manual in Malagasy and French
(3) Develop a standardized animal record system for use in Madagascar
(4) Establish a Zoo Code of Ethics
(5) Develop guidelines for the management of confiscated and illegally held lemurs

The DLC’s longtime veterinarian, Cathy Williams, has moved into Andrea’s former role as Curator.

Congratulations, Andrea!

Published April 9, 2018.

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