Zoo news letterhead

June 17, 2013

Saint Louis Zoo 314/781-0900
Susan Gallagher, 314/646-4633
Christy Childs, 314/646-4639, pr@stlzoo.org
Joanna Bender, 314/646-4703

Three black and white ruffed lemur infants were born May 14, 2013

Video: http://youtu.be/Ako14ZjuOIo and http://youtu.be/LFY2W0J1qnU

Three tiny black faces with big neon eyes and fuzzy white sideburns greet adoring visitors at the Saint Louis Zoo's Primate House. Born May 14, 2013, the triplets are black and white ruffed lemurs, a critically endangered species unique to Madagascar. This birth is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Ruffed Lemur Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program to manage a genetically healthy population of black and white ruffed lemurs in North American zoos.

"We've given the infants Malagasy names to emphasize their role in raising awareness of their species' status in the wild. We hope that the male Zanahary ("ancestral spirits"), females Andriana ("noble rank") and Vintana ("destiny") will engage all of us to work toward reversing the species' potential destiny of extinction to one of continued survival in Madagascar's rainforests," said Ingrid Porton, Saint Louis Zoo's curator of primates.

The family of five is joined by older brother Fidy, age 4 and sister Naissance, age 3, and can be seen together at the Zoo's Primate House. The infants have more than tripled their birth weights of 3, 3.5 and 4 ounces. They were born to 7-year-old mother Lulu and approximately 20-year-old father Mahery [ma-HA-ree].

"Mahery was one of many ruffed lemurs illegally held as a pet in Madagascar before being confiscated by Malagasy authorities and placed in the Ivoloina Zoo, managed by the Madagascar Fauna & Flora Group (MFG), an international consortium of zoos and botanical gardens that fund a comprehensive in-country conservation program," said Porton. "Because the Ivoloina Zoo didn't have enough space for all the confiscated lemurs, four pairs were sent to the U.S. in 1991. They significantly increased the genetic diversity of the SSP population when all produced offspring. Indeed, Mahery's mate, Lulu, is the daughter of one of those pairs."

The Saint Louis Zoo became the international headquarters of the MFG in 2004, and through the Zoo's WildCare Institute funding, has furthered the MFG's research to conserve black and white ruffed lemurs in the wild. The decline of this species is primarily due to bushmeat hunting, habitat loss and fragmentation.

Admission to the Saint Louis Zoo is free. The Zoo is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. It will close at 12 noon on Friday, June 21, for ZOOFARI, the Zoo's major biennial fundraiser.