Earlier this year, we introduced our new Radiated Tortoises to our lemur yard and therefore to our lemurs. Whenever you are introducing new animals to each other, careful planning must take place. We thought the tortoises would not have much of a reaction to the lemurs. We ended up being correct. We were pretty confident that the lemurs would react to the tortoises though. After all, large moving boulders in your yard would probably concern you too. We had a few meetings prior to introductions to hash out different options. In the end, we decided just putting them together would be the best plan.
On the first day, we brought the tortoises out to the yard and then let the lemurs have access to it. Keeper Katie and I were stationed in the yard to help encourage them out and hopefully reassure them that all was safe and not scary. Cassandra was first out and quickly investigated these new yard intruders. Other members of the troop were quick to come out as well although none as brave as Cass. There was a lot of “clicking” coming from the lemurs. This noise, we believe, signals that the lemurs are nervous about something. It isn’t a full on alarm call to signal danger but rather signals to the rest of the troop to take notice. We stayed in the yard for about 20 minutes and then decided to give them time to figure it out without us. The lemurs had access to their holding stalls, in case they wanted to get away from the tortoises. All the lemurs eventually made it outside and high tailed it up into the trees. They wouldn’t even come down to eat! They also did start full on alarm calling. That lasted for most of that first day. Since they come in at night, we had to go out bring the tortoises inside first. Then it still took the lemurs over 20 minutes to come inside. It normally takes them about 30 seconds. In the video below, you can here the “clicking” noise and their alarm calling.
For the next couple of days, the lemurs had access to their holding stalls and to the exhibit. The alarm calling slowed down and they eventually came down from the trees. After about a week, we had reached a new normal. Normal meaning neither group pays the other any attention.
Both Ring-Tailed Lemurs and Radiated Tortoises call Madagascar home. Both are also unfortunately endangered, the tortoises critically so. They also face some of the same threats like: being poached for the pet trade, being eaten by the Malagasy people and general habitat loss. They work well as a mixed species exhibit because we can highlight Madagascar and its unique wildlife and raise awareness for their wild counterparts! Next time you are at the museum see if you can spot all 7 Ring-Tailed Lemurs and all 5 Radiated Tortoises!