Family

Lemur matriarch, called ‘nothing short of amazing,’ dies at Sacramento Zoo

A baby black and white ruffed lemur sits next to his mother, Ravenala, at the Sacramento Zoo in 2006.
A baby black and white ruffed lemur sits next to his mother, Ravenala, at the Sacramento Zoo in 2006. lsterling@sacbee.com

Ravenala, the Sacramento Zoo’s black and white ruffed lemur matriarch who spent 13 years at the facility, has died.

Zookeepers found Ravenala, age 18, deceased Friday morning when completing their early rounds. The zoo in a news release said the cause of death is not known, but Ravenala appears to have passed away in her sleep. The death was unexpected and she did not exhibit any unusual signs of illness, zoo officials said.

A full necropsy will be performed at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Ravenala was an older lemur, with the species median life expectancy being 18.6 years old.

“Ravenala was nothing short of amazing,” said Janine Steele, the lead primate zookeeper, in a statement. “She was a gentle and patient mother while being a fierce protector of her family and territory.”

Ravenala moved to the Sacramento Zoo in 2004 from the St. Louis Zoo. She and her mate, Jacque, had six litters totaling 18 offspring, eight of which reside at the zoo.

Zoo officials said staff and veterinarians will be closely monitor the family group. They said ruffed lemurs are female dominant and the loss of the female family leader will cause a shift in the group social dynamics.

Black and white ruffed lemurs, a critically endangered species, are native only to the island of Madagascar off the southeastern coast of Africa, according to the zoo.

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