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Coronavirus Response FAQ

There is no evidence that lemurs can contract COVID-19. However, DLC staff are – as always – taking precautions to ensure the minimum amount of germ transfer, including the use of gloves, masks, and other protective equipment. 

Are lemurs at risk from the COVID-19 virus?

The DLC is taking every precaution to ensure the health of all of our primates, humans and lemurs alike. A recent study in non-human primates shows that some monkeys can be infected by COVID-19 and experience mild symptoms. We do not know if lemurs are susceptible, and currently there is no evidence that lemurs can be infected by the virus; but until further information comes through, we are assuming they could be.


Bobby Schopler, D.V.M., Ph.D., is the Duke Lemur Center’s supervising veterinarian. In addition to 14 years’ experience treating the DLC’s lemurs, he has a Ph.D. in epidemiology and is highly knowledgeable of epidemics and the control and spread of disease.

How are you preparing?

As part of its accreditation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and AAALAC International, the DLC has Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) already in place for a variety of events ranging from ice storms and hurricanes to power outages and, yes, even disease outbreaks. “When you’re caring for one of the most precious collections of endangered primates anywhere in the world,” says director Greg Dye, “there’s a whole host of things you prepare for.”

Additionally, the DLC is actively working with the Duke Animal Program, which has a specified pandemic response as part of its business continuity and disaster plan, and Duke’s attending veterinarian, Dr. John Norton, to minimize any risks to the health and safety of the animals. We’re also fortunate that our own supervising veterinarian, Dr. Bobby Schopler, has a Ph.D. in epidemiology and is highly knowledgeable of epidemics and the control and spread of disease.

The DLC has begun operating on our “essential personnel only” protocol, which is designed to minimize the spread of a contagious agent. All on-site volunteer duties have been suspended. We have also made arrangements with vendors to ensure adequate food and supplies (bedding, medications, etc.) in case supply chains are interrupted.

Special note re: drop-off donations of enrichment items: To eliminate potential animal exposure from outside sources, we are suspending our practice of utilizing donated household enrichment items, including homemade enrichment toys, cardboard rolls (paper towel or toilet paper rolls), cardboard boxes, fleece, or denim pockets. Instead, we can only accept items that are pre-packaged and sealed by the manufacturer. Enrichment is an essential part of lemur welfare, and we have identified raw materials that can be shipped directly to the DLC via our amazon.com wishlist. If you would like to donate enrichment materials or other supplies, we would very much welcome your donations via the wishlist!


Lead Education Technician Faye Goodwin lends a hand counting mealworms for our nocturnal lemurs’ daily diets.

Are tours cancelled?

All tours have been cancelled and the DLC is closed to visitors through April 10. At that time, we will reevaluate our ability to reopen safely.

In accordance with Duke policy, larger events (50+ people) that were scheduled to take place before May 7 have been cancelled or postponed.


Cardboard rolls tied together with fleece are great for hiding food in and are a favorite source of enrichment for our lemurs. Because we can no longer accept donations of household items like paper towel rolls to create these feeders, we would very much welcome donations of raw materials purchased from our amazon.com wishlist and shipped directly to the DLC.  

What can the general public do to support the DLC during this time?

We would greatly appreciate donations via our amazon.com wishlist, which includes items needed to create daily enrichment items now that we can no longer accept household donations. Items purchased from the wishlist should be shipped directly to the Duke Lemur Center’s enrichment department: 3705 Erwin Road in Durham, NC 27705.


Will work in Madagascar be impacted?

The DLC’s work in Madagascar is focused on capacity building – empowering local Malagasy communities to protect and care for Madagascar’s forests and wildlife. Thanks to our Malagasy staff and the support of local communities, we’re proud that our work on the island will continue whether our US-based conservation staff are there or not.


The DLC has Standard Operating Procedures in place for a variety of events, ranging from ice storms and hurricanes to power outages and, yes, even disease outbreaks. The H1N1 pandemic (2009) provided an opportunity to evaluate and further refine the Lemur Center’s SOPs for viruses.

More information

Please visit Duke’s Coronavirus Response website for university-wide information and updates.