In the midst of a Zoo baby boom, Taronga Western Plains Zoo is proud to announce the arrival of not one, but two Ring-tailed Lemur babies!
A male baby was born on 1 September to mother Rakitra. Much to the delight of Keepers, he was joined eight weeks later on 28 October by a female, born to mother Cleopatra. Both Rakitra and Cleopatra came to the Zoo from Italy in 2012 to boost the Ring-tailed Lemur breeding program.
“It’s very exciting to welcome two healthy Ring-tailed Lemur babies this year, and particularly special to have one of each sex,” Keeper Sasha Brook said.
“Both babies are being well cared for by their experienced mothers, and can be spotted riding on their mothers’ backs at the Ring-tailed Lemur breeding facility,” Sasha said.
The arrival of the duo follows a successful breeding year for the species at the Zoo in 2016, when the Zoo welcomed two sets of male Ring-tailed Lemur twins. The arrival of a female baby this year offers promise for future genetic diversification in the breeding group. The gestation period for Ring-tailed Lemurs is approximately four-and-a-half months.
“At three months of age, Rakitra’s male baby is already spending more time away from his mother and interacting with the two sets of twins born last year. He spends lots of time wrestling with them, and it’s great to see the twins playing gently with the baby,” Sasha said.
“At nearly five weeks of age, Cleopatra’s female baby is still developing her coordination skills, but we have noticed her also start to bounce away from her mother for short periods of time. Cleopatra is particularly relaxed around her Keepers, so she doesn’t mind her baby exploring.
“We’ll start to see the female baby play with others soon, including her older brother, but for now it’s very positive that she’s bonding with her mother,” Sasha said.
The father of both babies, Dia, occasionally grooms Rakitra and Cleopatra, and at the same time grooms the babies, including their long, vividly striped black-and-white tails. The babies will gradually spend less time riding on their mothers’ backs as they gain independence, but will largely remain there for at least the first three months of their life.
“The babies have been chewing a lot, and have very sharp teeth. They will often chew on the adults’ faces, feet and anything else they can access – they are very playful,” Sasha said.
“Both babies are suckling well from their mothers. While their diet consists mainly of milk at this stage, the older baby has already started eating fruit and vegetables alongside the adult Lemurs.
“Ring-tailed Lemurs have a complex array of calls. The babies have been starting to contribute to some of the adults’ calls, which is very special to witness,” Sasha said.
Ring-tailed Lemurs are primates found only on the African island of Madagascar and small neighbouring islands. Sadly, their numbers have crashed of late, particularly in the last 12 months. They are an Endangered species, with habitat loss and hunting the greatest causes of concern.
Visitors can see the Ring-tailed Lemurs at the Ring-tailed Lemur breeding facility, just past the African Savannah Picnic Grounds. The best time to see them is at midday.