Note to editors: Ken Glander may be reached at (919) 489-3364, cell phone (919) 215-7823. A high resolution jpeg image of "Juliet" is available at < http://photo1.dukenews.duke.edu >, filename Juliet.jpeg (photo by Connie Bransilver). A jpeg of Romeo is also available, file name Romeo.jpeg (Photo by David Haring). B-roll videotape is available from Cabell Smith at (919) 681-8067.
DURHAM, N.C.-- Duke University primatologists who have just returned from an expedition to capture a mate for a rare lemur "Romeo" report that the "Juliet" they captured may be a previously unknown subspecies of the acrobatic lemurs known as sifakas.
If DNA tests performed over the next months prove the genetic difference, it would be scientifically irresponsible to mate the two animals, the primatologists say.
Thus, the lemurs Romeo and Juliet may prove to be just as star-crossed as their fictional Shakespearean namesakes.
Also unfortunately, the potentially new subspecies is being actively hunted in the 600-acre island of forest, which is being eaten away by timber-cutting and slash-and-burn agriculture, said the primatologists. As a result, the scientists may have found themselves in a desperate race to save a new subspecies before it becomes extinct.
Primate Center Director Ken Glander led the October expedition to rescue the sifakas from a dwindling patch of the Mahatsinjo forest in the depths of Madagascar. The animals that he and his colleagues sought are "diademed sifakas" -- the largest living lemur and considered among the most beautiful of primates, with lush fur of yellow, orange, gray, white and black.
On Oct. 10, after days of searching for animals that were finally spotted by local villagers, Glander, using tranquilizer darts, managed to capture a young male and a young female. Also, in attempting to dart the rapidly moving animals in the thick forest, an old
Contact: Dennis Meredith