A pair of Black-and-white Ruffed Lemurs, at the National Zoo and Aquarium Canberra, Australia, became first time parents recently. Polo and Masina welcomed four adorable offspring in late October.
The Zoo shares the new parents’ excitement, as the babies will be important additions to the international breeding program for their species. The baby Lemurs are also the first of their species to be born at the National Zoo & Aquarium.
Keepers report that the fuzzy quadruplets are happy and healthy and are getting along well with Mum and Dad.
The Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegata) is the more endangered of the two species of Ruffed Lemurs (both are endemic to the island of Madagascar).
The species has a complex social structure and is known for its loud, raucous calls. It is considered somewhat unusual because it exhibits several reproductive traits typically found in small, nocturnal Lemurs, such as: short a gestation period, large litters and rapid maturation. In captivity, they can live up to 36 years.
Parenting in this species of Lemurs is unique in that females bear litters of multiple offspring. Males also play a role in the parenting, especially in smaller groups where the certainty of paternity is high. In larger groups, the chance of a female mating with more than one male increases, as does uncertainty in paternity. This tends to decrease the level of male care of offspring. Instead of clinging to the mother, offspring are usually placed in a nest, which is guarded by both parents.
This Lemur species is currently classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. According to the IUCN’s report: “The principal threat to its survival is habitat loss due to slash-and-burn agriculture, logging and mining. They are large bodied and diurnal, and therefore also among the most heavily hunted of all lemur species. The seasonality of their vocalizations (due to increased food availability) has been tied to increased levels of hunting. In Makira, where they are one of the more expensive and desired meats, hunting is largely unsustainable. It is one of the first lemurs to disappear where humans encroach upon rain forest habitats.”