Duke expedition to rescue rare lemurs

Note to editors: Primate Center Director Ken Glander may be reached at (919) 489-3364 until Oct. 7. A high resolution jpeg image of "Romeo" is available at http://photo1.dukenews.duke.edu/ . File name is Romeo.

DURHAM, N.C. -- An expedition from the Duke University Primate Center will set out Oct. 7 to rescue extremely rare lemurs in a small, doomed patch of forest habitat in Madagascar.

The researchers' objective is to capture five diademed sifakas -- the largest living lemur and considered among the most beautiful of primates, with lush fur of yellow, orange, gray, white and black.

The researchers hope that among the captured animals there will be a "Juliet" for a young male diademed sifaka named Romeo at the Primate Center. He is the only member of his species in captivity and has waited six years for companion members of his species to arrive at the center.

Primate Center scientists urgently seek to establish a captive breeding colony of the animals before they go extinct from hunting and habitat destruction.

Led by Primate Center Director Ken Glander, the expedition will search for the diademed sifakas in a 600-acre patch of forest that is rapidly being destroyed by wood-gathering and slash-and-burn agriculture. The area to be searched is the Mahatsinjo forest south of the Madagascar capital of Antananarivo. An expedition into the forest by another group earlier this year reported the presence of the rare lemurs.

The latest expedition is the third such attempt to capture diademed sifakas. The first two failed to bring back animals, Glander said, because the animals in the areas searched were being hunted and fled when the expedition members approached.

"The critical factor that gives us hope for success with this expedition is that the animals in this forest are not hunted as far as we know

Contact: Dennis Meredith
Duke University

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