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Archive-name: lemur-faq/part6
Alt-fan-lemurs-archive-name: lemur-faq/part6
Last-modified: 2000/05/12
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
    Official USENET Alt.Fan.Lemurs Frinkquently Asked Questions
          Part 6 of 7  -- Duke University Primate Center

This section of the FAQ deals with the Duke University Primate Center,
the largest population of Lemurs outside their native island of Madagas-
car.  Make sure to read the sections (below) about tours, souvenirs, and
the all-important Adopt-A-Lemur program.  DUPC needs funds to continue
and extend its work and you can help.  It also discusses what little we
know about the programs carried on by the Jersey Zoo in the Channel
Islands of the United Kingdom.


                           The Questions

(1) What IS the Duke University Primate Center?
(2) What programs take place at DUPC?  What animals live there?
(3) What other programs take place at DUPC?
(4) Can I donate money to DUPC?
(5) How do I go about arranging a tour of the Primate Center?
(6) What is the mailing address of the Duke University Primate Center?
(7) What is Adopt-A-Lemur?
(8) Can I buy DUPC souvenirs through the mail?
(9) What if I want to donate a LOT of money?
(10) Is anyone else engaged in breeding lemurs to save them from extinction?
(11) Can I reach DUPC over the Internet?
(12) When you adopt a lemur, do you always get the same animal that
      anyone else adopting a lemur of that species gets, right down to
      being sent a form letter and the same photo?
(13) Do you have any unbiased reports from observers who visited the
      Primate Center?
(14) Does DUPC need volunteer helpers?
(15) Are the DUPC lemurs as intelligent as other primates?


                            The Answers

(1) What IS the Duke University Primate Center?
The Duke University Primate Center (DUPC) began in 1958 as the Center
for Prosimian Biology at Yale University.  In 1966, the Yale colony was
relocated to North Carolina and moved into its present buildings in

From 1968 to 1973, Dr. John Buettner-Janusch served as Director and
research was oriented toward behavior, genetics, and biochemistry. The
colony grew to about 250 animals representing 10 species during this
time.  Several interim Directors served from 1973 to 1977.

In 1977, Dr. Elwyn L. Simons became the Director.  He expanded the scope
of research to include conservation and the study of fossils.  He also
increased the educational opportunities and training for both under-
graduate and graduate students.  Under his leadership the colony grew to
more than 700 animals representing 33 species and subspecies.  Recent
years have seen the overall size of the colony decrease to the current
540 animals representing 29 species and subspecies (see below).

On May 15, 1991, Dr. Kenneth E. Glander became the Director of the DUPC
and Dr. Simons took on the role of Scientific Director.  As Scientific
Director, Simons will concentrate on teaching, research, and the
management of the Center's collaborative programs with Madagascar.
Glander intends to build the Primate Center's programs around the issue
of biological diversity.  He will also expand the environmental educa-
tion opportunities to include primary and secondary school science

Education of the public is equally important for the future of these
endangered primates.  Outreach programs aimed at increasing environmen-
tal awareness of elementary and secondary school children could be
developed and disseminated via a public exhibit hall and classroom space
which would be built outside the gates of the Center to prevent disrup-
tion of the captive breeding and conservation programs.  The pavilion
area would serve as a staging area for tours of the animal colony and
presentation areas for exhibits as well as providing modest office space
for staff and volunteers involved in educational and promotional ac-

One of the missions of the Primate Center is to assist in international
efforts to prevent the extinction of Madagascar's most endangered

The Primate Center accomplishes this through:

      * behavioral and ecological research
      * international conservation programs
      * in-country training programs
      * captive breeding

The Center is funded by the National Science Foundation, Duke Univer-
sity, and private donations.


(2) What programs take place at DUPC?  What animals live there?

The DUPC primate collection consists only of prosimians. There are three
groups of living prosimians:

* the lemurs of Madagascar
* the lorises and galagos of Asia and Africa
* the tarsiers of certain East Asian islands (although these animals are
  being placed by some in taxonomic categories closer to apes, monkeys,
  and humans.)

The majority of the animals housed in the DUPC colony are lemurs from
Madagascar.  Lemurs have lived isolated on their island home located off
the southeast coast of Africa for more than 50 million years.

In recent years the forests of Madagascar, once teeming with lemurs,
have been reduced by more than 90% as a result of increased human
population pressure. Lemur populations in the wild are rapidly declin-
ing.  As human population expands, increased need of food causes in-
tensified hunting of lemurs.  Also, the lemurs' habitat is destroyed by
agricultural "slash and burn" practices. The result is that many lemur
species are threatened with extinction.

A principal objective of the Primate Center continues to be the captive
breeding of endangered prosimians.  In order to achieve that goal,
efforts are being made to reduce the size of the Primate Center's colony
so that it can better utilize the limited resources by concentrating on
the most highly endangered species.

In 1987, World Wildlife International announced that the Malagasy lemurs
are the most gravely endangered group of primates in the world.  Follow-
ing this declaration, special- ists from Madagascar, Europe, and America
met and agreed that the genetic diversity of the following 10 prosimians
was the most severely threatened:

*   1) the Lake Alaotra bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis)
  + 2) the golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus)
    3) the greater bamboo lemur (Hapalemur simus)
*   4) the blue-eyed lemur (Lemur macaco flavifrons)
* + 5) the red-ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata rubra)
* + 6) the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascarensis)
*   7) the crowned sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi coronatus)
* + 8) the golden-crowned sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli)
* + 9) the diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema)
*  10) the mongoose lemur (Lemur mongoz)

The DUPC currently holds eight of these species (Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,
10) as indicated by asterixes, and hopes to get some golden bamboo lemurs very

The Center's current captive breeding efforts are focused on saving 5 of
these 10 most endangered species of lemurs, (Nos. 2, 5, 6, 8, 9) as
indicated by plus signs.  The plight of these species is characterized
by the fact that there are probably fewer than 100 golden bamboo lemurs
left in the wild.  This is an emergency situation if DUPC is to preserve
the biological diversity necessary for a viable captive breeding
program.  The aye-aye may be in similar difficulty. The choice of these
five species is not haphazard but rather based on the fact that the
Primate Center has successfully maintained and bred closely related
species and the fact that the need for preserving genetic diversity in
these five species appears to be greatest.  Furthermore, all the species
listed above and, for that matter, all the species held at Duke, are bred in
captivity and breeding records kept to ensure maximum diversity.

The Primate Center has both diurnal (day-time active) and nocturnal
(nighttime active) prosimians.

Diurnal animals are housed in outdoor runs or in Natural Habitat
Enclosures encompassing large tracts of the Duke Forest.  All animals
housed outdoors have heated winter sleeping quarters.  These enclosures
are vital for future planned reintroduction of the lemurs to their
native habitats.  Here, animals have the opportunity to learn how to
find their own food, avoid predation, and roam in sufficient space to
form natural social groupings.  65 acres of rich Duke Forest habitat
offer a unique opportunity for study in a natural setting.

A new Nocturnal Animal Building houses most of the night-time active
prosimians.  This recent addition to the Center was designed to control
lighting, humidity, and temperature, critical for the well-being of
these animals.

Approximately 85% of the DUPC colony is captive-bred.  No other zoo or
institution has successfully bred so many different prosimian species.


(3) What other programs take place at DUPC?


Another important and unique aspect of the Primate Center is its
collection of fossil primates representing prosimians, monkeys, apes,
and other mammals.  The collection consists of more than 10,000 fossils
ranging in age from less than 1,000 years to more than 60 million years

Housing both living and fossil primates in the same center is sig-
nificant because the surviving prosimians are often called  "living
fossils," providing clues about the Earth's past environments.

International extension programs in Madagascar:

DUPC promotes international relations and cooperation through research,
education, and conservation programs. Primate Center staff are assisting
the Malagasy government to reopen Parc Ivoloina as a zoological and
botanical conservation center.  The joint goal of the park project is to
increase the Malagasy people's awareness of the importance of conserva-
tion through education, thereby making the native population cognizant
of the unique flora and fauna of their island.


(4) Can I donate money to DUPC?

Donations are gratefully accepted by the Duke University Primate Center.
The address to send them to is DUPC, 3705 Erwin Road, Durham NC 27705.
If you like, ask them to put you on their mailing list and send you
their newsletter.


(5) How do I go about arranging a tour of the Primate Center?

The Primate Center is located at 3705 Erwin Road, Durham, North Caro-
lina. Durham is found on any road map of North Carolina, and you can buy
a Durham street map when you get there.  (It's in the big Duke Forest
area that you get to off Routes 15-501 and 751.)

Admission costs to the Primate Center are as follows:

      Adult  $5.00
      Child (12 and under)  $2.50
      Senior Citizen  $2.50
      Duke student  $3.00

The Primate Center is open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.,
and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon.  You can't just show up; you MUST
make an appointment.  The number to call is (919) 489-3364.

The tour is well worth the trip to Durham and the money.  The lemurs are
just as curious about humans as humans are about them and the experience
of wandering from enclosure to enclosure is eerily like being studied
back.  You'll get to meet Blue Devil, the first aye-aye born in the
Western Hemisphere, as well as the sifakas so clever that the DUPC
people had to put an extra bolt on the outside of their door to keep
them from jimmying the lock and escaping.  The lemurs are wonderful
little animals!  Go see them.


(6) What is the mailing address of the Duke University Primate Center?

Duke University Primate Center
3705 Erwin Road
Durham, NC 27705
(919) 684-2535 or (919) 489-3364


(7) What is Adopt-A-Lemur?

You'll hear a lot about Adopt-A-Lemur on
Adopt-a-lemur is a means by which friends of DUPC can donate $50 to
$250 to the Center and "adopt" one of the lemurs, receiving letters
and photos and other information about your lemur.  So far, dozens of
animals have been adopted either jointly or individually by readers.  Bob Smart even adopted a mated pair of
ringtails as a wedding gift for a couple of lemur-loving newlyweds.
Lemur adoption isn't just a cost-effective way to donate money while
receiving something in return -- it's also tax deductible.

If you would like to contribute financially to the programs of the
Duke University Primate Center, you can!  While the $2,000 needed to
equip out an enclosure for a mated couple may be beyond the range of
most people, there is an Adopt-A-Lemur program that allows one to
make a difference at an affordable price.

The cost of adopting any given lemur is pegged to the approximate
cost of keeping that animal fed and medically cared for for one year.
Hence, adoption costs for the smallest animals are usually $50 and
the largest and/or rarest animals are usually $250.  There are ranges
in between of $100, $125, and $150 as well.  For additional informa-
tion, contact: Carol Holman (919) 489-3364.  Duke University Primate
Center, 3705 Erwin Road, Durham NC 27705.


(8) Can I buy DUPC souvenirs through the mail?

Yes.  Duke offers a lot of souvenirs, from t-shirts to frisbees to
coffee mugs to posters to VERY nice gold-plated Christmas ornaments.
Since the lineup of souvenirs offered changes from time to time, an
actual price list will not be listed here.  Instead, to get the price
list, drop them a postcard and ask for the latest catalog (DUPC, 3705
Erwin Road, Durham NC 27705) or telephone (919) 489-3364.

The money earned from the souvenirs goes to support the lemurs. Buy


(9) What if I want to donate a LOT of money?

Well, you can.  Duke got a large grant from the National Science
Foundation to renovate all its caging some time back, but the grant is
contingent on matching funds.  As funds are donated to Duke or become
available, the NSF cuts loose more of the grant money.  Duke will be
happy to explain to you the various amounts of money needed to, say,
build a new silo-style cage and will even put up a big nameplate naming
the cage after you if you want.  Again, you need to call Duke directly
to get all this set up.  The donations are tax deductible.


(10) Is anyone else engaged in breeding lemurs to save them from

You bet.  Many zoos are engaged in a joint breeding project coordinated
by a scientific body known as the Taxon Advisory Group.  The TAG keeps
track of lemur pedigrees and tries to ensure the most diverse gene pool
possible by matching lemurs from various zoos and centers.  Duke is the
_largest_ center, with the world's largest collection of prosimians
outside Madagascar, but it's by no means the only one.  Many American
zoos are involved in these programs.

European readers interested in participating in sponsorship of animals
or simply in visiting a breeding center are encouraged to contact Gerald
Durrell, the famous British zoologist, at the Jersey Wildlife Preserva-
tion Trust, located in the British Channel Islands.  We don't know much
about their programs, but the address to write to if you want to do the
research for us is:

          The Trust Secretary
          Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust
          Les Augres Manor
          Trinity, Jersey
          British Channel Islands

Let us know what you find out if you write them!

We've also been told that the Hamerton Wildlife Centre, Huntingdon,
Cambridgeshire, has a lot of lemurs.


(11) Can I reach DUPC over the Internet?

Yes.  Write them at, or visit their web page at


(12) When you adopt a lemur, do you always get the same animal that
anyone else adopting a lemur of that species gets, right down to being
sent a form letter and the same photo?

Not necessarily.  Duke is willing to let people adopt specific animals
if they wish, logistics allowing, but often sends out the default
package for an animal if no particular animal of a given species is

Joao de Souza noted that his girlfriend (presumably Maria Drago) had
received, after adopting a new baby aye-aye, Cruella, the same photo of
an adult aye-aye that had appeared in his newspaper about a different
animal.  He asked if Duke always sent out the same photo regardless of

The question was answered on two levels:

One: the truth: Cruella is being kept away from the general public and
disruptions of her routine as much as possible.  Dr. Glander could
probably describe this in greater detail but basically, the intent is to
keep the aye-ayes wild and prevent the 'imprinting' which took place in
"Blue Devil" from happening again.  Blue Devil is a weird critter that
doesn't get along with fellow aye-ayes.

So, yes, we don't stick cameras in her face a lot.

Incidentally, so many lemurs were adopted through Adopt-a-lemur that the
volunteer staff at DUPC is somewhat overburdened getting all the packets
for all the animals out with individual photos of each specific animal.
So, yes, occasionally 'default photos' are used.

The other answer to the Cruella question:

Nosferatu, one of the adult aye-ayes, was bemused because, during one of
his nocturnal forays through the Primate Center's overhead ductwork and
down into Dr. Glander's office, he had discovered that he was named
after a vampire.  He looked up 'vampire' and found that vampires cannot
be seen in mirrors or captured on film.  Hence, he got into photographer
David Haring's supplies and started trying to take pictures of himself.
Since David doesn't keep a Polaroid camera around, all Nosferatu managed
to do was fill up several rolls of film on several cameras with pictures
of himself staring bemusedly into the lens.  When the rolls were sent
off to be developed, DUPC ordered the standard thirty copies of each
shot to sell to the visitors.  Imagine their surprise when they wound up
with several hundred photos of Nosferatu.  Hence the reason why, to this
day, they're still trying to foist Nosferatu pictures off on anyone we


(13) Do you have any unbiased reports from observers who visited the
Primate Center?


Jim Griffith ( wrote:

So I just got back from my two-week, cross-country road trip, and the
first place I visited was the DUPC in North Carolina.  I got to meet
everyone there, mainly Dorothy who works the front desk, Dr. Glander
(who was really busy, of course), Carol Holman (ditto), and Stephanie
(sigh, talk about an attractive, intelligent lady.  Knows the lemurs by
name without resorting to tags, knows how to gross out tourists with
stories of disgusting insects, you name it).

So I got to meet Agrippa, who is, of course, a serious chick magnet.  I
*told* you people that chicks dig golden crowned sifakas.  It was also
cool, because they just picked up another pair of GCS'es, which they are
keeping in a cage inside one of the larger enclosures.  Since I'm a
"major contributor" (heeheeheehee), and since I've adopted one of the
GCS'es, they took me through the enclosure to see the two new GCS'es
(note - if you plan on visiting the DUPC, don't bother to ask to do this
- they'll deny that they do this).  It was really cool walking through
this forested area, seeing these red-ruffed lemurs lounging on overhang-
ing branches all around me.  And I could swear I saw this one ring-tail
wearing a miner's helmet and wielding a pickaxe stick his head out of a
hole, see Stephanie, and duck back before she could see him.  Gonna be a
wild time in Durham for a while...  Anyways, I got to see the two
GCS'es, and while I was looking, the male jumped over to me and started
whuffling, as if to say "you eyeing my woman?".  As we were leaving,
they both leaped over to the door, hoping to find a way out - apparently
they take every opportunity to get out (which is in character, of

I also got to see Nigel ("You lookin' at me?"), the "anything-but"
gentle lemurs (but not Be-bop - apparently he's in solitary), the
blue-eyed lemurs named after famous movie stars (which, by the way, are
the only other primate species besides humans to have blue eyes), the
one-armed red-ruffed lemur, and the aye-ayes (talk about *ugly*...).  I
had to laugh as one of the ring-tails slipped Stephanie's car keys out
of her pocket while she was talking to us.  Far be it from *me* to turn
them in - they know where I live.

Another thing is that photos really don't do the lemurs justice.  You
can't fully appreciate a lemur until you've met one in person and had
him lift your wallet.  For starters, the ones which look bigger in
photos end up being smaller than expected and the smaller-looking ones
end up being bigger.  The GCS'es are much larger than I expected, and
the gentle lemurs (otherwise known as "those lemur assassins") are much
smaller.  Their mobility is kind of strange too.  You expect them to
either be completely manic or virtually comatose, and in point of fact
they alternate between the two states.  You'll watch a Coquerel's sifaka
sitting calmly on a tree branch, when suddenly he's leaped 20 feet to
hang on the cage wall and stare you straight in the eye.  It's an
incredible thing to watch.

Anyways, it was a really cool tour, and I came away with a lot more
respect for the center and its people.  I showed up expecting it to be
much more glamorous, but it's a working facility, and that's what you
quickly notice. They have something like 2500 individuals, 2000 or so of
which have been loaned out to zoos or other institutions ("lemur pimps"?
Hmmmm...), so the center has 503 individuals.  Of the 2500 that the
center is responsible for, 91% of them were bred there - only 9%
represent captured lemurs.  That's pretty impressive.  If you want to go
for a tour, I just have a couple of suggestions.  First off, they're an
institution which is consistently under-funded, so have the good manners
not to argue about money (the tour is cheap anyways).  Second off,
please remember that these people do serious work.  They're not in the
business of entertaining tourists.  So check the place out, enjoy
yourself, but try to keep your place and don't tie them up for hours,
expecting them to entertain you.


(14) Does DUPC need volunteer helpers?

Sure!  Although they'll take volunteers, be aware that there are only so
many tour guides needed, though.  Some volunteers help out with animal
records and others help out in the fossil lab, and so forth.  Just call
Duke at (919) 489-3364 if you live close enough to be able to help out.

While we're on the subject, here's an account Joel Furr wrote about what
it's like to volunteer there:

Those of you who've been to the DUPC know what a cool place it is.

However, I just wanted to let you know how much more interesting it is
when you're volunteering there and can come and go around the place.

My volunteer assignment, at present, is to wander down to the techs'
logbook on weekends and take pages up to the computer to enter into the
various animals' records.  For example, if the tech feeding the lemurs
in enclosure NHE2 notice the Lemur catta playing banjo over by the pond,
he or she will make a note in the logbook that looks like this:

      17/Nov/93  L.c. in NHE-2 seen playing banjo again.  Sounded like
      "Dixie."  Didn't identify specific animals.

And then I come along and enter it into the NHE-2 Lemur catta file.  If,
on the other hand, it's about a specific lemur such as, say, Nosferatu:

      17/Nov/93  D.m. Nosferatu #____ OR VIII b seen with Dr. Simons'
      copy of Das Kapital again.  Book was taken away from him and was
      replaced with some old Richie Rich comics.  Nosferatu went "EEEEP"
      when we gave him the comics.

I'd pull up Nosferatu's file, using his ID number, and add the log entry
to the list.  In other words, I get to pull up records on ALL THE LEMURS
THERE and see what they've been up to for the last three years or so (or
however long they've been there.)

Some of the techs have a sense of humor.  Or perhaps it's the lemurs.
Not sure which, really.  Reading about the aye-ayes going "EEEEP" and
eating all their aye-aye glop is fairly amusing.  [On the other hand,
reading about some of the lemurs in one of the large outdoor habitats
killing infants from other species in the neighboring habitat was a
little grim.]

Another cool thing about working as a volunteer there is giving tours.
I have only given one tour so far [at the time this was written] and
that was pretty much of a practice tour, given when a group of five
people called one morning to ask for a tour and I didn't know enough to
tell them that all our tours were filled.  So, I gave them the standard
DUPC stroll-around-in-a-big-circle-and-look-at-all-the-lemurs-
especially-Diphda tour, with help from the educational coordinator,
Carol Holman, who I brought along so she could correct me when I left
things out or got my facts wrong.  Giving lemur tours is right up there,
I think, with being captain of that jungle cruise boat at Walt Disney
World.  The lemurs study the people on the tour just as intently, if not
more so, than the people on the tour study the lemurs.  Some of the
lemurs, like the crowned lemurs, have a terrific knack for sneaking up
to the wall of their pen to eye you suspiciously, then bounding away in
no time at all the minute you glance around.

Lemurs can jump better than anyone.  When some of the lemurs, like the
Coquerel's Sifakas, are bounding around the upper branches of their
tree, or swinging from the roof of their enclosure to the walls and back
again, you begin to wonder if they didn't independently evolve Flubber.

Lemurs can also make noise better than just about anyone.  Well,
specifically those loony red-ruffed lemurs.  Red-ruffed lemurs and
black-and-white ruffed lemurs have an alarm call that they use whenever
they're startled, afraid, alarmed, or just bored.  Since they're not
very bright, as lemurs go, they sound the alarm call once every half
hour or so and keep it up for a few minutes until they finally realize
that they're not being devoured alive and that they might as well get
back to lying in unnatural positions on branches looking very comfort-
able.  We were standing in front of a pen of red-ruffeds the other day
when they did the call and it was like watching bullfrogs: their mouths
and throats expanded and out came this horrid cackling call that would
have made any predator handy bolt for cover.

Some of the lemurs have interesting personalities.  The aforementioned
Diphda, a red-ruffed lemur, is known as the three-legged lemur since she
had to have a forelimb amputated when she was very young, and as a
result was hand-raised by humans and likes them a lot.  Diphda will come
to the side of her pen when tours walk by and grin out at them, and if
you do it right, she'll let you pet her on the head or talk to her.  She
seems to have very little difficulty bounding around her pen, three legs
and all.

Bebop, on the other hand, is not kept where tours can see him.  A short,
surly-looking gentle bamboo lemur, he once fanged a tech so thoroughly
on the hands that she'll always have scars in the webbing between her
thumbs and forefingers.  One of the entries on Bebop in the logfile
refers to him being incarcerated in Maximum Security Cellblock #3.  He
LOOKS very cute, you see, in a surly sort of way, and clings to the bars
looking like he wants to nuzzle you, but if you reach tentatively out to
him, you get to see some VERY sharp little teeth.  Withdrawing your hand
quickly from his biting range is advised.

One of the more interesting experiences I've had since starting as a
volunteer at DUPC was getting to suit up in booties and a full body
coverall in order to visit the new Diademed Sifakas still in quarantine
in one of the subterranean chambers of the Center.  The Sifakas are
three in number: a mother and her son, and a sad-looking male who at
last report was getting over his captivity and adjusting to life
"inside."  With any luck, the male will form a mating bond with the
female.  We had to suit up to visit them since no one knows what
diseases a new species might carry, and no one knows how vulnerable they
might be to human diseases.  If we'd actually gone into their cage, we'd
even have had to put on masks. [Note: the Diademed Sifaka female died in
the first half of 1994, but the son and male are in fine shape.  DUPC
plans to bring in two females for them in 1995.]

If you're sitting at the computer on the top floor of the Primate
Center, you occasionally hear a loud THUNK from behind you.  One side of
the corridor looks out through large windows onto the enclosure where
Flavia and Nigel and their offspring, bouncy Coquerel's Sifakas all,
live.  It's a large enclosure with lots of branches and things to swing
on, and it's two stories high.  They like to peer out at the people
walking by, and sometimes, when I'm sitting there entering data, they'll
leap to the window and peer in at me.  That's the reason for those
occasional THUNKs.  You'll look around, and a black face surrounded by
glossy white and gold fur will be peering in at you.  [Due to cage
renovation, Nigel and company have now been moved to a large silo-style
cage further away from the Center proper.]

As Dr. Kenneth Glander, the director of the Primate Center told me on
Saturday, lemurs really WOULD go nuts trying to get Twinkies and Big K
Grape if they had a chance.  Lemurs are insatiable lovers of sweets.  We
were right all along!

Some of them do make a noise that sounds sorta like "Frink."  Especially
the Mongoose Lemurs.  It's a grunting sort of "Frink," but you can
tell, that's what they're saying.  I think the Red-Ruffed Lemurs' alarm
call is a loud, squawking "Ptang" as well.


(15) Are the DUPC lemurs as intelligent as other primates?

Joel Furr wrote:

Lemurs have been denigrated by some as "less intelligent" than more
advanced primates such as monkeys, gorillas, and man.  Leaving
aside comparisons such as lemurs dancing naked in the woods while
men build atomic bombs, I personally feel that lemurs show a great
deal of intelligence and imagination.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the Duke University Primate
Center's Coquerel's Sifaka area.  The Sifakas overcame locks and
electric shocks to achieve their cryptic ends and managed to outwit
their keepers for quite a while.

It started one day when the lemurs in the core area downstairs in
the Primate Center building were found bounding around in the
hallway after David Haring, the colony manager, had been through
the area feeding the animals.  Haring thought he might have left
their door ajar after feeding them, so he made sure it was shut and
went back to his work elsewhere.  Soon thereafter, the lemurs were
found bounding around in the hallway again.  Upon observation, it
was discovered that one of the lemurs, Constantine, had figured out
how to work the door from the inside and get out.  A special lock
had to be installed to keep Constantine and his clan in their room.
Nevertheless, Constantine didn't give up.  Now and then, a tour
group would go through the area and, in the process, jostle his
door.  Constantine would tiptoe over, lemur-style, and check his
door... just in case.

Another Coquerel's Sifaka, Sabina by name, had some eating
problems.  As the dominant female of her group, she had rights of
first refusal to all food placed in her room, and she never saw an
item of food she didn't like.  Normal Coquerel's Sifakas weigh
about 8 pounds.  By the time Sabina had gotten done gorging herself
up to her maximum weight, she weighed 23.  Pictures of Sabina at
this time show a ball of fur that looks like three lemurs huddled
together.  Normal Coquerel's Sifakas can spring great distances
with amazing balance and precision.  Sabina, at maximum weight,
could hop a few inches.  Then hop again.  Apparently, it was both
funny and sad.  Clearly something had to be done.  The Primate
Center experimented with an invisible fencing collar, which would
give Sabina electric shocks if she got too close to the food
intended for the other lemurs in her room.  This worked for a while
until something happened to loosen the collar a little bit and she
was able to get at the food if she leaned over just right and
thereby avoided making contact with the electrode in the collar
that delivered the shocks.  She also worked out a method for
dragging the tray of food for the other lemurs across the room to
her and chowing down.  Finally, a combination of the electric
collar and firmly attaching the food tray for the other animals to
the floor got her weight down to a normal range.  Sadly, Sabina
died while on loan to a  zoo, apparently suffering a toxic reaction
to something in the food or in her cage.

Some of the ruffed lemurs, thought by some to be less intelligent
than other lemurs, show unusual wit (or at least inventiveness) as
well.  A black and white ruffed from one of the large outside
natural habitat enclosures, developed a fondness for the
Scuppernong grapes which grew nearby -- unfortunately, on the other
side of the electric fence that protects the lemurs from wandering
humans and keeps the lemurs in their study area.  The voltage isn't
set high enough to kill or injure the lemurs, but is high enough
that a normal lemur won't want to get a second shock after first
trying to scale the fence.  Not this lemur, though.  She decided
the grapes were worth it and would climb the fence, getting
shocked, eat her fill of grapes on the other side, then return home
to her enclosure, getting yet another shock in the process.

Then there was the red-ruffed lemur which escaped and found its
way to a golf course, ten miles away...  Lemurs do occasionally
escape from their enclosures and pens, sometimes as a result of
doors accidentally being left open, and sometimes when they manage
to burrow under the fence.  Often, the lemurs can be bribed back
into their enclosures or cages with raisins, which they adore, but
when this has to be done, it necessitates a later feeding of
raisins for no reason at all, lest the lemurs come to associate
raisins with escaping or with getting imprisoned again.  Sometimes
the lemurs wander around the center's grounds for a few hours until
they get hungry and turn up looking to get fed.  All lemurs wear
collars with unique combinations of colors and symbols (so they can
be identified at a distance), and marked with the Primate Center's
phone number so they can be reported in should they turn up lost
and forlorn miles from home.  A red-ruffed lemur made it as far as
a golf course in the neighboring city of Hillsborough, over ten
miles away. Fortunately, the people at the golf course saw the
phone number on the lemur's collar and called the Primate Center to
come get their "cat."  There was no report on how well the lemur
had done on the course that day, nor what handicap lemurs normally
get when playing golf.


The final section of the FAQ is Part 7: Real Lemur Facts.

This section of the FAQ partially adapted from publications of DUPC.
  Revised April 5, 1993 by Joel Furr,
   Revised July 6, 1993 by Joel Furr,
    Revised August 10, 1994 by Joel Furr,
  Republished May 11, 2000 by Joel K. 'Jay' Furr,

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