Duke welcomes the newest granddaughter of Jovian, the famous Zoboomafoo
Here at the Duke Lemur Center, birth season has begun! Please join us in celebrating the arrival of Marie, a critically endangered Coquerel’s sifaka born February 23, 2019 to first-time parents Gertrude and Remus!
In the Northern Hemisphere, Coquerel’s sifakas are typically born between December and March; Marie, who was born in late February, arrived just at the end of the normal birth season. Not only is she the DLC’s first infant of 2019, she is the granddaughter of Jovian, star of the Kratt brothers’ beloved PBS children’s show “Zoboomafoo.”
Marie is special, too, because she is the first infant born during the directorship of Greg Dye, new Executive Director of the Duke Lemur Center. “Even more importantly,” says Dye, “Marie’s birth strengthens the genetic safety net we’re building at the Duke Lemur Center to protect this critically endangered species from extinction.”
In Madagascar, Coquerel’s sifakas are threatened by habitat loss and hunting. As a group, lemurs are the most endangered mammals on Earth, with 95% of species at high risk of extinction. Coquerel’s sifakas were uplisted from endangered to critically endangered in 2018 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Because five-year-old Gertrude had been paired so recently with a brand-new male (the strapping Remus, age seven), Dr. Cathy Williams, the DLC’s Director of Animal Care and Welfare, hadn’t intended for them to breed quite yet. Gertrude received contraception during breeding season last summer, but in lemurs as well as in humans, no contraception method is 100% effective. “Gertrude and Remus got along very well indeed!” says Williams. “Marie was the unexpected but very welcome result.”
“It was such a surprise,” says Becca Newton, who was the family’s primary caretaker for Marie’s first weeks of life. Gertrude had been brought to the DLC’s veterinarians for a routine physical exam, which led quickly to the discovery of her “secret.” One of the veterinary technicians “scampered in to whisper the news,” Newton recalls, “and I was so excited! It’s the first time I’ve had a baby sifaka in my section.” On the one-month anniversary of the birth, Newton christened the infant “Marie.”
First-time parent Gertrude has been an excellent mother: Right away she was very attentive to Marie, cradling and grooming her tiny infant throughout the day. Marie weighed 108 grams at birth, slightly heavier than a deck of playing cards. Although she failed to gain weight during her first few days of life, by March 2 she began to improve, nursing well, maintaining weight, looking bright and alert, and clinging tightly to Gertrude’s abdomen.
Thanks to the care she received from her parents and the DLC’s veterinary and animal care teams, seven-week-old Marie is thriving. “Gertrude, Marie, and Remus have all settled in well,” says Williams.
“Any first-time mom or dad knows how stressful figuring out how to be a good parent can be,” says Dye. “To see these two first-time parents be so successful is a huge tribute to them and to the DLC’s amazing staff.”
Sara Clark, Director of Communications at Duke Lemur Center
Published April 11, 2019.
More great info about the Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithicus coquereli) is available on the species homepage on the DLC website.
Want to learn even more about sifakas AND help support their care, not only here but also in Madagascar? Consider symbolically adopting Pompeia, a female Coquerel’s sifaka, through the DLC’s Adopt a Lemur program! Adoption packages start at just $50, and every contribution helps provide the complex care that all lemurs, including Marie and her family, receive every day at the Duke Lemur Center.