by Jessa Franck, Zookeeper
A few months ago, I was in the Dr. Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital when the vet performed an ultrasound on our adult female Black and white ruffed lemur. She was very early in her pregnancy, but we could see two bright spots on the screen… two hearts! The vet turned the sound up on the heartbeat monitor and at that moment we were as giddy as any expectant parents could be listening to that “swish swish” sound!
The keepers started guessing the birth date. The day before my chosen day, I came to work early and walked through the quiet, empty zoo to the lemur building. Mom was in a big, black tub with bedding and I thought I saw a little body huddled under her. I excitedly called the supervisor. A little while later, we performed a quick vet exam on the surviving baby. We tentatively sexed it as male (sometimes things are swollen at birth and it’s hard to tell, which is why we have a female monkey named Chuckette).
Baby boy grew quickly. We weighed him weekly and within a month, we were performing what we call the “mesh test” where we attempt to fit him through a piece of mesh the same size as exhibit fencing. Black and white lemurs can have up to six babies at a time. Instead of carrying all the babies with them, they are left in a nest until about six weeks when they are strong enough to follow their parent around. Hence the need for a “mesh test.” He was way ahead of his siblings in growth. We joked that it wasn’t his shoulders that would hang him up, it was his fat little belly.
Watching the baby black and white ruffed lemur venture out onto exhibit with his family for the first time was just as exciting as a year ago when I watched his two older brothers and sister make their debut. He was very timid at first and spent a lot of time walking to the edge of the porch. He spent some time munching on the spinach not deigned tasty enough to eat by the older members of his family (they prefer fruit). Then he made a sudden decision to climb the mesh sides all the way to the top of the exhibit, higher than he had ever been. The keepers laughingly said that we would have to climb up and rescue him, but Mom came up and checked on him. It must have given him courage because he made his way back down and started navigating the ropes and limbs in the exhibit. And just like his big brothers and sister, the last thing he wanted to touch was the grassy ground. I found many excuses to walk past the exhibit throughout the day to watch him playing with his siblings. He likes to wrestle with one of his brothers and his sister takes on a more motherly role with him. Good practice for the future when she has her own babies! When I checked on him at lunch time, he, Mom, and sister were all sleeping together in a hammock.
I saw his siblings go from small, timid babies weighing only around 4.5 ounces to confident, young adults. And now the new baby seems like he is well on his way.
Monday, July 16, 2007
by Jessa Franck, Zookeeper