Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo has announced the birth of five black-and-white ruffed lemurs to first-time parents.
The babies, twins birthed by Andapa and triplets by Morombe, have yet to be named but were born in the zoo’s primate house in March. Andapa gave birth on March 23 and Morombe on March 28. The sisters, both 8 years old, have been at the zoo since 2014, while Tanjaka, 7, the father of all five lemurs, arrived in the fall and bred with Andapa and Morombe in December.
It’s the first time the three lemurs had attempted to breed and their first time being parents. The success was somewhat of a surprise for zoo officials.
“It’s a win-win,” said zoo director Ronda Schwetz. “I couldn’t be more proud of our amazing team and how they continually raise the bar on animal welfare and care excellence. We’re really thrilled we had such success.”
Ruffed lemurs are native to Madagascar and critically endangered in the wild due to lost habitat by deforestation and human encroachment. Along with other Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited facilities, Henry Vilas Zoo is participating in the ruffed lemur Species Survival Plan. Out of 29 pairs that were recommended by the SSP in 2017 for breeding, only five had offspring.
The babies at the Henry Vilas Zoo will be named in the coming weeks and bring the number of black-and-white ruffed lemurs there to eight.
“I almost didn’t want to make myself believe it, because it was too good to be true,” said Elise Gorchels, a zookeeper. “Everything went very well. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”
According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, black-and-white ruffed lemurs can reach 20 to 22 inches in body length, with 24- to 26-inch tails. Adults typically weigh between 6.6 and 10 pounds. The animals have an array of vocalizations that can include a deep, barking call and a wailing howl.
In the wild, social structures consist of small family groups, typically between two and five individuals but sometimes as many as 16. Black-and-white ruffed lemurs often walk, run and leap from branch to branch but also are adept at hanging from their feet to reach ripe fruit hanging from tree branches, according to the Smithsonian.
The ruffed lemurs at the Henry Vilas Zoo will have access to nest boxes out of the view of zoo visitors to provide them with privacy, but they occasionally have been making public appearances as they become more comfortable, Schwetz said. Several rock hyrax, a woodchuck-like animal from Africa that had shared the ruffed lemur enclosure, have been moved to another exhibit.