Durham, N.C. — The Duke Lemur Center in Durham, which houses the largest number of lemurs outside Madagascar, is hosting Lemur Week through April 5 in conjunction with the release of a new IMAX 3D film, "Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar."
Lemurs are the most endangered group of mammals in the world. More than three quarters of lemurs in the wild are at risk of extinction.
To raise awareness for lemurs, a truly diverse and incredible species, Duke Lemur Center is hosting events and holding a contest for the duration of Lemur Week.
Local business are participating, like Fullsteam Brewery. A portion of the proceeds from their limited release Lemuria brew goes to the Duke Lemur Center. Other businesses include Parker & Otis, Rise, Q Shack and more.
The big feature of Lemur Week is the new IMAX 3D movie, which will be released nationally on Friday. "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar" is narrated by Morgan Freeman and tells the story of lemurs surviving in the wild and remote island of Madagascar.
The lemurs' story begins more than 60 million years ago, when a group of proto-lemurs washed ashore in Madagascar. For years lemurs lived on a paradise island with no predators and evolved into hundreds of different species.
"The lemurs' story is one of the great adventures of epic proportions. A twist of fate brought them to this strange island where they forged a new life and a whole parallel reality that was uniquely theirs. That really inspired us to make this movie," writer and producer Drew Fellman said. Fellman also produced the 2011 IMAX 3D documentary "Born To Be Wild 3D."
The movie highlights the survival of lemurs thanks to the work of Dr. Patricia Wright and her mission to protect these intriguing creatures. For years, she advocated and raised funds for the creation of Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar, which is home to 15 species of lemurs.
Viewers will see lemurs in the movie as well as the natural beauty of Madagascar, which is only enhanced by the 3D effect. It was extremely hard to film a movie in Madagascar, where remote locations and lack of infrastructure made filming and traveling difficult.
"We ended up going to places filmmakers have never been before, the most dramatic places in Madagascar. It was quite an adventure," Dr. Wright said.
A few lemurs from the Duke Lemur Center are featured in the film – they're the only lemurs in the movie to not play themselves. The group of dwarf lemurs was cast as the group of proto-lemurs who arrived in Madagascar millions of years ago. They were shot in front of a green screen at the center, where they were supposed to walk through a log and into the light, symbolizing the lemur's arrival. Unfortunately, dwarf lemurs are nocturnal, and in the darkness of the log, the lemurs kept falling asleep halfway through the shot!
Luckily for Triangle residents, we can see lemurs in person without going to Madagascar. The Duke Lemur Center holds tours by appointment only. (Call 919-401-7240 to schedule a tour.) We got a close look at some lemurs during the Lemur Week kick-off, and they are really fantastic animals.
Another fun fact about the Duke Lemur Center: The lemur star of children's show "Zoboomafoo" on PBS lives at the center and partial episodes of the show were filmed there! I loved the show as a kid, so I was excited to learn that Jovian (his stage name is Zoboomafoo) lives there and just welcomed his seventh lemur baby into the world.