Zoo News

Aug 01, 2018

Resolving a Lemur Family Feud

By Christian Dobosiewicz, Communications Manager

Have you ever been in an argument with your parents or siblings? It might be difficult at times but hopefully, apologies are made, and you can forgive each other. Just like humans, our animals have disagreements. In one specific case, our two ring-tailed lemur brothers had quite the disagreement, and it took a lot of dedicated work from our keepers to get them happily back together again.

Brother’s Rolf and Alexander our two ring-tailed lemurs had lived together with their father Zolton until his passing in May of last year. Shortly after his passing Rolf and Alexander started to show signs of aggression toward each other. In the past, the two lemurs would sleep with and groom each other, but now all they did was fight. The two had been observed chasing each other and Rolf had wounded Alexander several times. It was a troubling time, and the boys had to be separated while our keepers hatched a plan to reunite them.

Part of the plan depended on understanding why they were not getting along. The keepers reached out to other zoos and lemur experts for advice. It was determined that with the absence of their father, Rolf the dominant one could focus more on Alexander. It also did not help that it was lemur breeding season so hormone levels were running high and may have been a contributing factor in their unusual and aggressive behavior.

Based on the advice from experts around the country, the keepers planned for a gradual and slow introduction at the end of the breeding season. Around early April our keepers allowed the boys to take a peek at each other through a mesh door.

After a few weeks of seeing each other through the door, it was time for Rolf and Alexander to meet each other again once again. Our keepers determined that a neutral place, that neither one of them had ever claimed as their home would be best and the adjacent Japanese macaque yard fit the bill. Alexander and Rolf would have a new area to explore on their own and would not pay full attention to each other.

The keepers introduced them for only a couple of hours at first, but increased the time together over the next week or two. The first couple of meetings ended with boys scuffling, but nothing that was too serious in the eyes of our animal care team. It took about two months for them to fully finally be comfortable with each other. Today, Alexander and Rolf can be seen in their regular habitat and are even back to displaying loving behaviors like grooming and sleeping with each other.

It took a lot of dedication, patience, and planning to reunite our lemurs. We appreciated the input we received from other Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Together, we are able to brainstorm the best plan for a tricky introduction like this one. We are thrilled that our boys are enjoying each others company again!

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