Critically endangered lemur born at Chester Zoo

The rare lemur was born at Chester Zoo, and has been celebrated by conservationists. Credit: Chester Zoo

Conservationist's and animal lovers are celebrating the birth of a Coquerel’s sifaka lemur, a critically endangered species.

The tiny new arrival was birthed at Chester Zoo by 11-year-old Beatrice on 21 September 2023, after a five month pregnancy.

Dr Nick Davis, Primatologist and General Manager of Mammals at the zoo, said: “The new baby was born with a thick fuzzy white coat, just like its parents, and is already wide-eyed and full of personality. Mum Beatrice is being kept very busy with her playful arrival who is feeding from her regularly and has, so far, showed great signs of development."

First images of the bright-eyed baby show it bonding with its mother and clinging tightly to her fur as she leaps from tree to tree. 

Chester Zoo is only one of three places in Europe where you can find the species, and the only place with a baby Coquerel’s sifaka. Credit: Chester Zoo

Primate experts at the zoo say the baby will begin to branch out and explore on its own at around three months old, which is when they will reveal if it’s male or female.

Dr Davis said: "Over the next few weeks the youngster will gain enough confidence to begin exploring on its own.

"Only then will our team be able to get a closer look and discover if it’s male or female, which is really important information as we work to safeguard the species and its future.”

The lemurs rub their glands along branches to mark where they have been or to attract a mate.

The Coquerel's sifaka, also known as the dancing lemur, is an endangered species, with its wild population having fallen by 80% over the last 30 years.

The lemurs rub their glands along branches to mark where they have been or to attract a mate.

Zookeeper's have already noticed the new arrival's distinctively bright, wide eyes. Credit: Chester Zoo

Mike Jordan, Director of Animals and Plants at Chester Zoo, said: “These unique primates are found in only one place on Earth, the northwestern forests of Madagascar.

"Sadly, their population is in sharp decline and their habitat has become increasingly fragmented as more than 90% of the island’s forest has been wiped out to make way for agricultural farming and human activities."

Chester Zoo is only one of three zoo's in Europe to care for the dancing lemur's, and it's hoped this latest birth will help keep the species alive.

Dr Davis said: “A new arrival into the conservation breeding programme is a huge boost for the species, especially as the little one will be joining only five other Coquerel’s sifaka living in zoos across Europe, so every addition is very special."

The Coquerel's sifaka lemurs population has dropped by 80% in the last 30 years. Credit: Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo works with Madagascan officials and conservation groups to ensure there are wildlife sanctuaries on the island that can support its unique animals.

Over the last decade, Chester Zoo has helped develop a special area of protected forest, spanning more than 27,000 hectares, to safeguard the island’s unique wildlife including lemurs, frogs and reptiles.

Mike said: “We’re hopeful that the work here at the zoo in the UK, as part of the co-ordinated efforts with other European zoos, paired with our efforts in Madagascar to protect the forests, will ensure species like the Coquerel’s sifaka can thrive for generations to come.”

There are more than 100 species of lemur in Madagascar – the only place where lemurs are found in the wild. However, 94% of lemur species are at risk of extinction.

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