Time to end a year of animal stories on a high with some good conservation news from the keepers at Chester Zoo. Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) lemur mother Beatrice has welcomed a new arrival after a five-month pregnancy.
The baby weighs just 120 grams (4.2 ounces) and was born at Chester Zoo, the only zoo in the UK and one of only three zoos in Europe to have its own Coquerel’s sifaka population. Currently the team do not know whether the new arrival is male or female as it clings closely onto its mother, 11-year-old Beatrice.
“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,” said Dr Nick Davis, primatologist and General Manager of Mammals, in a statement sent to IFLScience.
Coquerel’s sifaka are, like all lemur species, native to the island of Madagascar. Unfortunately major deforestation has almost wiped out their forest home, leading the population to decline by 80 percent in the last 30 years. The IUCN has this species classed as critically endangered. They are nicknamed the “dancing lemurs” because of the way they move sideways on powerful hind legs along the forest floor.
“These unique primates are found in only one place on Earth, the north western forests of Madagascar. Sadly, their population is in sharp decline and their habitat has become increasingly fragmented as more than 90 percent of the island’s forest has been wiped out to make way for agricultural farming and human activities,” said Mike Jordan, Director of Animals and Plants.
Beatrice and her male partner Elliot were transferred to Chester Zoo in 2021 from the Duke Lemur Center in the USA to help launch a new conservation breeding programme to protect this endangered species. The team at Chester also work in Madagascar to help create areas of protected forest for this and other lemur species to live in.
It is hoped that one day the new arrival will go on to have young of their own. “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,” concluded Jordan.