22 August 2019

Four endangered lemurs have arrived at Chester Zoo as part of an international breeding programme.

The crowned lemurs – one of the world’s rarest primate species – moved to the UK from Montpellier Zoo in France after being carefully matched up by conservationists working to protect the species.

The two males, Hajao (1) and Rak (19), and two females, Ilo (2) and Pia (20), will share their new habitat in Chester with two other species of lemur – red ruffed and ring-tailed.

Primate experts from Chester Zoo eventually hope to successfully breed the species which, in the wild, is in major decline.

Crowned lemurs, like all species of lemur, are native to Madagascar. They live only in forests at the northern tip of the island where their wild number is estimated at less than 10,000.

Large-scale habitat loss across Madagascar continues to be the biggest factor in the demise of the species. They are also hunted for food, with a number known to have been killed to serve a luxury restaurant trade in parts of Madagascar and are also persecuted for their occasional raids on crops, as well as captured for the local pet trade.

Mike Jordan, Chester Zoo’s Collections Director, said:

“After overcoming their initial nervousness, crowned lemurs Hajao, Rak, Ilo and Pia have settled well into their new home and are getting along famously with their bolshie neighbours – a group of ring-tailed lemurs and five red ruffed lemurs.

As with the vast majority of lemur species, crowned lemur numbers in Madagascar are in decline and, through carefully coordinated international breeding programmes, zoos are playing a vital role in creating a safety-net population as the species tinkers on the edge of extinction.”

Conservationists from Chester Zoo have been fighting to protect habitats and species in Madagascar for almost a decade.

The zoo team is working with field partners Madagasikara Voakajy in the country’s Mangabe New Protected Area, in a bid to protect the forest which are home to thousands of unique species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, other than on the island.

Crowned lemur facts

  • Crowned lemurs get their name from the distinctive crown pattern on the top of their heads. Males have a brown and ginger coat with a black spot on the top of their heads whereas females are more grey in colour with a ginger back
  • They have large round ears which are able to pick up group calls and detect approaching predators, long tails for balance and strong hind legs for leaping long distances between trees
  • Male Hajao was born on 16/05/2018
  • Male Rak was born on 22/04/2000
  • Female Ilo was born on 13/05/2017
  • Female Pia was born on 18/07/1999
  • Having arrived at the zoo earlier this summer, the lemur quartet are now beginning to make their first regular appearances to visitors in the zoo’s new Madagascar lemur habitat