Wellington Zoo is home to two Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, father and son, Lucky and Ankari.
Lemurs are very vocal animals which use a lot of different calls to communicate. You might hear them making an alarm call to alert each other to danger, displaying their dominance, or simply saying hello.
Lucky looking out from up in the trees
Ankari, the son, is very inquisitive and gentle. His favourite treat is grapes and when he is eating them he will tilt his head back to make sure he doesn’t lose any of the juice from the fruit.
Lucky and Ankari, like all Lemurs, are expert climbers. At Wellington Zoo the Keepers will sometimes suspend fruit and other treats from the ropes in their habitat – the Lemurs love this little game and it is a great enrichment tool for them as it encourages natural foraging behaviours.
Another special treat that the Wellington Zoo Lemurs get is the nectar of Pohutakawa tree flowers! This is definitely not something that they have access to in their native home in the rainforests of Madagascar. Luckily for Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, they are the only animals on Madagascar which are strong enough to open the flowers of the Travellers Palm. This gives them a good food source, and also makes them the only animal which is able to pollinate them.
A Travellers Palm. Photo: Wikipedia
Because of the way that Black and White Ruffed Lemurs feed on these impressive plants and the physiological adaptions required to do so, it is believed that this relationship has coevolved. They use their long tongues and muzzles to lick the nectar from deep within the flowers, transferring pollen from plant to plant on their snouts and fur.
Notice the thick fur around Lucky’s neck – this collects pollen whilst feeding
Black and White Ruffed Lemurs are very important to the biodiversity of Madagascar. As well as pollinating the Travellers Palm, they also spread the seeds of fruit they eat throughout the rainforest, helping to ensure new plant growth and a healthy ecosystem.
Unfortunately these Lemurs are classified as critically endangered. As usual, this has come about through hunting and habitat loss through deforestation. This means that it is very important to look out for Forest Stewardship Council certified timber and paper products when you are making purchasing decisions. Another way of helping to protect wild Black and White Ruffed Lemurs is to book a Close Encounter with Lucky and Ankari at Wellington Zoo.
A map showing the wild range of Black-and White Ruffed Lemurs (Green) and their cousin the Red Ruffed Lemur (Red). Image: Wikipedia
The chance to sink your fingers into the softest fur at Wellington Zoo makes the Lemur Close Encounter special. The father and son Black and White Ruffed Lemurs will come down to your seat in their habitat and pluck grapes out of your hand while you get the chance to feel their stunning black and white coats. You might also get a show of the enormous noise that comes out of such a quiet looking animal.
Meeting Lucky at the Lemur Close Encounter
10% of the proceeds go to the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund, which supports the Madagascar Flora and Fauna Group. The MFFG protects the rich biodiversity of Eastern Madagascar through conservation, research, education and capacity building.