'Juliet' Evades Primate Center Expedition

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University primatologists were unable to capture a mate for the rare lemur called Romeo, in an October 2-16 expedition to the lemurs' homeland in Madagascar. Duke Primate Center Director Kenneth Glander and his colleagues said Monday they sighted groups of rare diademed sifakas like Romeo, but were unable to come close enough for a capture.

The diademed sifaka is the largest living lemur and considered perhaps the most beautiful of primates, with fur of yellow, orange, gray, white and black.

Romeo is the only diademed sifaka in captivity, and Primate Center scientists urgently seek to establish a captive breeding colony of the animals before they go extinct from hunting and habitat destruction.

In fact, said Glander, the expedition dramatically showed how much pressure the endangered animals are under.

"Although we saw groups of animals on five of our eight days in the forest, the instant they saw us, they would run away," Glander said. "We also found a lot of lemur traps and extensive cutting of trees." Glander said his observations supported the accuracy of estimates that the diademed sifaka will be extinct in about 20 years.

According to Glander, the researchers were particularly surprised at the reduced number of other lemur species in the east-coast Forest de la Gare where the expedition ventured. They sighted only a single bamboo lemur and heard the calls of black-and-white ruffed lemurs.

"There should have been many more, but hunting in the area is rapidly depleting the population." And, when Glander and his colleagues explored the area where Romeo had been captured three years ago, they found a heavily logged forest with no lemurs in sight.

The capture effort will continue, said Glander, with expedition member Charlie Welch, who lives in Madagascar, returning to the Forest de la Gare area in late November.

"Since we found that the lemurs grew more wary the longer

Contact: Dennis Meredith
Duke University

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