Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Visit To The Duke Lemur Center

Today I'm on a plane. I'm flying toward the west coast for work. My body may be far from North Carolina, but my mind is on the Lemur Center at Duke University. The Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina is a place you may never have heard of, yet it is a place of great importance for some of the most endangered animals in the world, the Lemurs.

The Duke Lemur Center is hidden away in a forest not far from the main Duke campus. The center is not large, it is not flashy, it is not a zoo or amusement park. The center is modest in appearance but not in vision. As stated in their brochure, which is printed with soy ink on 100% post-consumer recycled fibers, the Duke Lemur Center "will serve as a globally recognized leader in prosimian biology in the areas of research, education and conservation".

How much you see and learn at the Lemur Center is up to you. You can just stop by and see the visitor center and purchase a souvenir in the gift shop. You can pay a small fee and take a guided tour around the nicely landscaped grounds surrounding the visitor center. Or, you can go all out and pay the larger fee to be guided into the free range area and see lemurs up close without cages holding them. The free range area is about 80 acres and when I visited was the home of about 95 lemurs. Overall the center has about 250 lemurs.

For those animal lovers that want even more, talk to the guides at the Center about participating more directly in the research and care of lemurs and the other prosimians at the Center. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that all proceeds from tour fees go toward the research and care of the lemurs within the Center.

When I visited the Duke Lemur Center I opted for the short guided tour. To kickoff the tour the entire group watched a 10-15 minute film in the visitor center. The movie was informative and there was also a chance to ask questions from the experts. After the movie, but before we continued outside for the tour there was a short talk and some tour guidelines provided by the guide.

The tour guide took our small group of visitors around the center grounds, stopping to view the lemurs. At each stop the guide gave us detailed information about the various lemurs. The center has over 20 species of animals, although they are not all visited on the tour. Our group saw Coquerel's Sifaka Lemurs, Red Ruffed Lemurs, Blue-eyed Black Lemurs, Crowned Lemurs, Black Lemurs and more. Most of the Lemurs we saw that day were active, some were eating, some were playing, all of them were amazing!

After viewing the outdoor Lemurs the tour went into a building where nocturnal prosimians are kept. The nocturnal animals are kept in a dark environment during the day so they can be active and alert during the time researchers are available. The nocturnal animals we saw included Aye-Ayes, Lorises, Bushbabies and a Fat-tailed dwarf lemur.

If you are ever in the area, and want to see and learn more about some of the worlds most endangered animals, be sure to visit the Duke Lemur Center. Don't forget to call ahead to reserve a spot for the tour you want. These popular guided tours book quickly.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Skyenimal System

Have you ever wondered why so many children are enthralled with animals? Is it the cute, cuddly pictures they see on TV or in books? Is it the pet they remember touching or holding at home or at their friends house? Or could it be something deeper programmed into every one of us at birth?

At an early age most children begin to recognize and respond to animal images with enthusiasm and excitement. Because of this, animal images are often used to assist early childhood education. For example, parents and educators throughout the world often use animal images to enhance the learning process of alphabet letter recognition.

In addition to making fundamental learning more interesting learning about the animals themselves is an excellent way to introduce children to the world at large. Learning about an animal can directly or indirectly introduce a child to geography, biology, physics, sociology and many other sciences.

Does your child like Elephants? If so, they will likely be curious where in the world Elephants live (geography). Do they love watching fish swim in a pond? Before too long they may ask 'how do those fish breathe'? (biology). Dinosaurs? History. Birds? Physics. Migrations? Ecology. Animal groups and families? Sociology. The list goes on an on, and the learning opportunities never run dry.
Learning based on animals can be taken to great depths in many conceivable directions. This is why animals studies have lead to numerous inventions that helped shape the world as we know it. We have radar, sonar, airplanes and glow sticks to name just of few of inventions inspired by the animal world. People are still learning from the animal kingdom today and will surely learn and invent currently unimaginable things for decades or centuries to come.

In addition to learning opportunities animals also seem to have a way of bringing people from different cultures and backgrounds together. When you see someone you don't know has established the same loving bond with their pet you can more easily see the humanity and compassion instead of focusing on language or cultural differences. Suddenly the person that was different from you seems a lot like you.

At Skyenimals we hope to provide a safe environment for kids to learn about animals as well as share their knowledge, creativity and artistic ability with other children and animal lovers throughout the world. Come join us at for imagination, learning and fun.

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