Infant Coquerel's sifaka with leaf in mouth

Coquerel’s sifaka infant Minerva has quite the personality! Photo by David Haring.

When the Duke Lemur Center’s animal caretakers visited expecting Coquerel’s sifaka mom Pompeia on the morning of March 12, 2023, they discovered that she had given birth overnight to a healthy 89 gram female infant!

14-year-old Pompeia is the niece of Jovian, the Coquerel’s sifaka who played Zoboomafoo on the eponymous hit TV show, making baby Minerva his grandniece. Minerva’s father, Gordian, unfortunately passed away at the end of 2022, but Minerva has a lively family group in mom Pompeia and older sister Cornelia.

Three free-ranging Coquerel's sifakas grooming in the trees

Family grooming session with baby Minerva (left), mom Pompeia (middle), and older sister Cornelia (right). Photo by Sara Nicholson.

Coquerel’s sifakas born at the DLC are traditionally named after figures from Roman history and mythology. Minerva gets her name from the Roman goddess of wisdom and justice, also known to the Ancient Greeks as Athena. Pompeia is widely regarded by DLC staff as one of the smartest lemurs in our colony; she has been participating in voluntary cognition research since she was an infant still clinging to her mother’s back. A wise name like Minerva is only fitting for her newest daughter!

Older sister Cornelia was just over one year old when Minerva was born. Cornelia has taken a keen interest in her younger sister from their very first introduction. She often takes the infant from Pompeia to carry and groom her, giving mom a break from babysitting. As Minerva has grown older and more independent, Cornelia has become a very willing playmate.

Infant Coquerel's sifaka leaping through bamboo

Minerva practices her vertical clinging and leaping skills while Pompeia sunbathes on a nearby tree. Photo by Sara Nicholson.

Infant and juvenile Coquerel's sifakas play amongst bamboo

Cornelia joins her little sister in exploring the bamboo growing in one of our forest enclosures. Photo by Sara Nicholson.

Here at the DLC, our husbandry staff use positive reinforcement training to teach our lemurs to perform certain behaviors on cue for a food reward. It’s less stressful for both the animals and their caretakers if the lemurs understand how to participate in their own care. Pompeia has been trained to trade her baby for a peanut (!!!) in a process called voluntary infant removal. This allows our veterinary team to perform examinations on Pompeia’s infants with minimal stress to mom.

Infant Coquerel's sifaka climbing on mom's head

This is not Pompeia’s first rodeo! As an experienced mom, Pompeia has learned that infants can be a handful. Photo by Sara Nicholson.

Get Involved!

If you have symbolically adopted Pompeia, you’ve already met Minerva in your most recent animal update! Symbolic adoptions help us provide world-class care for our animals. You or your chosen recipient will receive an adoption packet and quarterly email updates for a year on a specific lemur who lives at the DLC. Adopt Pompeia the Coquerel’s sifaka to keep up with baby Minerva this year!

Infant Coquerel's sifaka clings to bamboo

Stay tuned for more adorable photos of baby Minerva! Photo by Sara Nicholson.