It’s a love fest for Como’s new group of blue-eyed black lemurs
DID YOU KNOW ?
Lemurs are sexually dichromatic, meaning that males and females have markedly different coloration. Males, like Eugene, are completely black, while females like West and Poehler range from reddish brown to gray.
While it’s hard to hear on the opposite side of the glass in Como Zoo’s primate building, the blue-eyed black lemurs make a distinctive “oink” sound similar to pigs.
To learn about the challenges of lemur conservation from the ground up, Como Friends’ Conservation Champions program made it possible for a zoo keeper to travel to Madagascar in 2019. Click here to read all about it in the 2020 Summer Insider. Como Friends Publications
When Como Zoo keepers prepare to put new animals together, they follow a careful process, first introducing animals to each other’s smells and sounds before they finally meet face to face. The step-by-step introduction helps to minimize stress and possible aggression between animals. But for West and Poehler, a mother-daughter pair of blue-eyed black lemurs just arrived at Como Zoo in December, getting acquainted and friendly with their new roommate Eugene took no time at all.
“West and Poehler have had a really successful introduction to their new environment,” says primate keeper Em Brunmeier. “They’re having no issues at all with Eugene, and all three are starting to huddle up and cuddle together, which is a behavior lemurs use to feel safe. It’s been really great to see.”
Blue-eyed black lemurs are among the most endangered primates in the world, with fewer than 1,000 individuals left in their native Madagascar. As a result, zoos like Como are critical to helping preserve the species. West, a long-time resident of the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina, is one of fewer than ten breeding females in North America. The hope is that she and Eugene will continue to hit it off, and become a successful breeding pair.
Lemurs are the most endangered mammal on earth, with 95 percent of species now at risk of extinction. While every species is special, blue-eyed black lemurs have held a special fascination for many scientists because they are the only non-human primate on the planet with blue eyes. At the Duke Lemur Center, which houses the largest number of lemurs outside of Madagascar, all the animals are named after blue-eyed celebrities. West, age 10, is named for 1930s film star Mae West, while her 3-year-old daughter is named for “Parks and Recreation” comedian Amy Poehler.
Females take the dominant role in lemur group dynamics, patrolling territory, getting the first pick at food, and being fiercely protective of their young. “Two unrelated females being put together could cause a lot of tension, so having a mother and daughter pair is really ideal,” says Brunmeier, noting that the two new arrivals are also very interested in what’s happening on the other side of the glass. “It’s a kind of enrichment for them to see people—they seem really fascinated by visitors.”