One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Rare Lemur Born At Marwell Wildlife
Marwell Wildlife near Winchester is celebrating the birth of one of the most endangered species of lemur in Madagascar.
Wild Alaotran Gentle Lemurs (Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis) are only found inhabiting the reed beds around Lake Alaotra in Madagascar.
Marwell Wildlife, which is part of the conservation breeding programme, currently has five Alaotran Gentle Lemurs.
John Pullen, the charity's curator of mammals, said:
"The park's latest baby is now three weeks old and its mother Lelafo, is beginning to leave the baby instead of carrying it on her back.
"The youngster seems to be doing very well and Lelafo is a great mum, who is very protective.
"We are uncertain of its sex at this stage because we keep our distance to make it as natural as possible for them.
"Once we know the babyâ€™s sex the animal keepers will find it a suitable Madagascan name."
Research shows that in the last five years 30 per cent of the wild population of Alaotran Gentle Lemurs has been lost.
There are several threats facing the wild population, particularly as they are only found in such a small area.
- There is an annual burning of the reed beds, destroying the animals' habitat.
- The lemurs are caught for food as they flee from the fire.
- The lake is being drained for rice irrigation.
- The papyrus and the reeds are being cut for mats and fencing.
- The lemurs are captured for sale as pets. As pets they survive for an average of two months.
Research has demonstrated the benefits of maintaining the reed beds for local fishermen and farmers, as well as for lemurs.
In 2003, the swamps were declared a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance which is paving the way for a brighter future for the lemurs.
Marwell Wildlife has seen a number of other important births recently including two Scimitar-Horned Oryx, a Saki Monkey, Ring-Tailed Coatis, and a Grevy's Zebra.
To watch a video of the new arrivals visit www.youtube.com/user/MarwellWildlife
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