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.