Conspiracy theory: Lemurs arrive at Oregon Zoo

Five furry lemurs can now be seen — and heard — at zoo's primate area

A group of lemurs is called a conspiracy, but the five lemurs who made their debut at the Oregon Zoo yesterday appear to be on the up and up. Two black-and-white ruffed lemurs and three ringed-tailed lemurs moved in to the zoo's primate area early Tuesday, next-door to the white-cheeked gibbons.

Visitors to the zoo might hear the lemurs before they see them. They greet each other with distinct, bird-like calls that can be heard up and down Zoo Street between Steller Cove and Elephant Lands. Lemurs have several styles of vocalizations, which they use to communicate with their family groups.

"Lemurs are naturally very social," said primate keeper Barbara Suhn. "Wild lemurs live in large family groups, and different species like the black-and-white ruffed and the ring-tailed do really well together."

The lemurs arrived at the zoo earlier this month and have been getting to know each other and their keepers behind the scenes. Caregivers say they're settling in well. The five furry primates quickly began exploring their new surroundings, climbing on logs and even hanging upside down from the top of the habitat to get a better look.

A.J. and Sriracha, the two black-and-white ruffed lemurs, can be identified by the striking tufts of white fur on either side of their heads, as well as their black and white body markings. Aislinn, Gizmo and Holy, the three ring-tailed lemurs, have gray fur on their bodies and long striped tails.

And as for any conspiracy theories? Suhn isn't too worried.

"This is one conspiracy we're pretty happy about," she said.

Though their inquisitive faces and longer snouts resemble foxes, lemurs are actually prosimians, a suborder of primate known for their wet noses and keen sense of smell. There are more than 100 known species of lemur, all found in only one area on Earth: Madagascar and the nearby Comoro Islands. Due to a combination of deforestation, habitat loss and poaching, lemurs are one of the most endangered mammal groups in the world.

The new arrivals came to the Oregon Zoo on a recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for lemurs — a cooperative program among accredited zoos that helps create genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations to guarantee the long-term future of animals. These SSPs also support relevant field projects, research and public education to help prevent animal endangerment and extinction.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

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