State News

Duke gets two endangered lemurs from Madagascar

Posted August 24

Officials with the Duke Lemur Center say they hope Velona, left, a 3-year-old female, and Mangamaso, a 5-year-old male, will improve the genetic diversity of captive members of the critically endangered species of blue-eyed black lemurs. (Photo courtesy of Duke Lemur Center)

— A pair of endangered lemurs has been imported to the U.S. from Madagascar for the first time in two decades.

The Duke Lemur Center announced Thursday that it transferred Mangamaso, a 5-year-old male, and Velona, a 3-year-old female, from Parc Ivoloina, a nonprofit nature center in eastern Madagascar where they and their parents were born into a conservation breeding program.

The new breeding pair will be used to improve the gene pool of captive members of the critically endangered species of blue-eyed black lemurs, officials said.

"The addition of two lemurs genetically unrelated to our current animals is a huge asset to our conservation breeding program," Andrea Katz, curator of animals at the Duke Lemur Center, said in a statement. "The more genetic diversity we have, the better we can maintain our role as a safety net for this species."

Although there are about 30 blue-eyed black lemurs in the U.S., officials said there could be fewer than 1,000 blue-eyed black lemurs in the wild.

Prior to the arrival of Mangamaso and Velona, every blue-eyed black lemur in North America descended from seven wild-born animals imported by the Duke Lemur Center in 1985 and in 1990, officials said.

The center says it took three years of planning and 60 hours of travel to get them to the U.S. Duke says it's the first time lemurs have been imported to the U.S. from Madagascar in 24 years because of strict regulations on the primates.

Overall, 238 lemurs of different species live at the center at Duke University.

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