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Lemur found in Turlock finds temporary digs at Sacramento Zoo

The lemur was probably part of illegal pet trade
The lemur was probably part of illegal pet trade

A lemur found wandering in Turlock has found a temporary home at the Sacramento zoo.

The zoo was contacted in December by a Turlock resident who said that the ring-tailed lemur, native to the African island of Madagascar, was in his Stanislaus County backyard.

A little Internet searching convinced him that what he had was a ring-tailed lemur, an endangered species in Madagascar and even more rare in Turlock. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was brought in to help with capture and the zoo stepped up to provide care and temporary housing.

Zoo officials said that because there is no evidence that a lemur has escaped from a zoo or sanctuary, the Turlock primate on the loose was probably part of the illegal animal trade.

“Nobody in the area who is supposed to have a lemur is missing a lemur,” said Tonja Candelaria, a zoo spokeswoman. “We are assuming that someone illegally purchased this lemur, had him at their house and he escaped or was let loose.”

The Sacramento Zoo does not have any ring-tailed lemurs so zoo officials are going to find a place where he can live with others of its kind. Lemurs are social creatures, but the wayward lemur does not live well with other ring-tails.

“He doesn’t understand normal lemur social skills,” said Candelaria. “That will play into where he is re-homed. We must find a place that knows how to help him learn those skills so that he can live with a troop of other lemurs.”

Leslie Field, supervisor of mammals at the zoo, has blogged that his behavior indicates he has not lived with other lemurs, another indicator that he is a product of the illegal pet trade.

The zoo does have black and white ruffed lemurs and mongoose lemurs. For the time-being, their solitary striped-tailed cousin is on display near them.

The ring-tail has received his shots, had a full-workup exam from veterinarians and passed his quarantine period.

Ring-tailed lemur facts from National Geographic:

-- Unlike other primates, ring-tailed lemurs cannot grip with their tails when swinging through the trees.

-- The fruit-eating mammals spend a lot of time on the ground.

-- Ring-tailed lemurs have powerful scent glands. During mating season, male lemurs battle for dominance by attempting to out stink each other. They cover their tails with secretions and wave them in the air.

-- Ring-tailed lemurs live in troops that average about 17 animals. A dominant female presides over the troop.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

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