Infant ring-tailed lemur held by husbandry technician next to plush animal

Cirilla during an infant wellness exam at seven days old. Photo by Sara Sorraia.

On the morning of April 19, 2024, the Duke Lemur Center’s husbandry staff found ring-tailed lemur mom Alena with a tiny infant clinging to her stomach! The female infant, Cirilla, is the fourth offspring of mom Alena and dad Stewart and is their first daughter. Cirilla’s two grandfathers are both DLC fan favorites—Aracus, our oldest diurnal lemur, and Randy, the ring-tailed lemur representative for our Adopt a Lemur program.

Tiny ring-tailed lemur infant clinging to mom, who is standing on a shelf with leaves

At 19 days old, infant Cirilla had just barely passed the average ring-tailed lemur birth weight. Despite her tiny size, she still possessed a strong grip and was able to cling to mom Alena’s stomach. Photo by David Haring.

Cirilla was born at only 37 grams—approximately the weight of a lightbulb—and is tied for the second smallest surviving ring-tailed lemur birth in DLC history. For comparison, Alena’s infant from 2023, Jasper, was born at a more standard weight of 69 grams. During her neonatal exam, our vets discovered that baby Cirilla’s head was lolling, her temperature was below 90ºF, and she was having trouble nursing. Mom and baby were both rushed to our state-of-the-art veterinary facility and were moved into our ICU incubator.

In an effort to help the tiny infant gain weight, members of our veterinary and husbandry staff took turns positioning Cirilla to nurse on mom every two hours, including throughout the night. She received both oral and subcutaneous doses of dextrose and was held against a heat pack to help her maintain an appropriate internal body temperature. Veterinary technician Chrissy, who started working at the DLC the day before Cirilla’s birth, remarked, “Her subcutaneous fluid dose was the tiniest bolus I’ve ever given!”

After three full days in the ICU, Alena and her daughter returned home, albeit under close supervision. Cirilla had gained four grams and was able to nurse without intervention—staff members even reported seeing Alena support her daughter’s head with her own hand during a couple of nursing sessions. By four days old, Cirilla’s eyes finally opened.

Staff member wearing a blue coat, a hat, and a face mask cradles a tiny infant lemur against a heat pack

Lead Husbandry Technician Mikey cradles one-day-old Cirilla against a heat pack in an effort to increase her internal body temperature. Photo by Savannah.

The husbandry team were relieved to find that Cirilla started putting on weight, growing bigger at every routine weigh-in. By the end of two weeks, she finally surpassed her older brother’s birth weight. By one month old, she weighed 115 grams, or about as heavy as a bar of soap. She has finally migrated from mom’s belly to her back, and her caretakers have even seen her starting to venture off on her own for short bursts of adventure.

“Watching Cirilla meet developmental milestones has been a truly wonderful experience,” says Savannah, the primary caretaker for Alena and her family. “I am reminded every day of how far she has come, from a small and precarious neonate to a bold and inquisitive infant ready to explore the world!”

Infant ring-tailed lemur sits atop mom's back, while mom takes a bite of a watermelon rind.

“None of this would have been possible without an experienced and attentive mother like Alena,” says keeper Savannah, who took this photo of two-month-old Cirilla clinging to Alena’s back while mom enjoys some fresh watermelon. Not pictured: Cirilla stealing a bite of mom’s snack!

Like older brothers Atticus, Mr. Popper, and Jasper, Cirilla shares her name with a literary character. Her namesake, Princess Cirilla “Ciri” of Cintra, is protagonist Geralt’s adopted daughter in The Witcher, a series of fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski that have recently been adapted into a Netflix drama.

Cirilla joins Albus, Pax, Eowyn, and Merry as the final member of our 2024 diurnal infant cohort. Stay tuned as we shift into our upcoming nocturnal baby season!

Infant clinging to ring-tailed lemur mom's belly, peeking head out, while mom sits on a shelf.

Five-week-old Cirilla peeks out from the safety of mom’s belly. Hello, world! Photo by David Haring.