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Dec 6, 2012

Obesity in Captive Lemurs

Body masses of wild and captive lemurs

Lemurs are one of the most endangered primate groups: of 103 taxa, 94 are due to be red-listed in one of the threatened categories, including 23 Critically Endangered and 52 Endangered species. Ex situ breeding programmes are vital to protect many of these species from extinction. However, various reports have cited obesity as common in captive lemurs. Excessive body mass can lead to breeding problems and infertility, and it renders affected individuals unsuitable for reintroduction into their wild habitats. Therefore, obesity may compromise captive propagation programmes. However, wild lemur body masses are often reported incorrectly and there is no definition of what constitutes obesity in lemurs, so the full extent of the problem has not been established. We compared the body masses of 902 captive lemurs from 14 species to wild lemur body masses reported in the literature. “Overweight” was defined as >125%, “obese” as >150% and “morbidly obese” as >200% of the wild body mass, respectively. All but two species had a median captive body mass that differed from their wild body mass (p<0.05). 54% of individuals were classified as overweight or above, with 21% overweight, 12% obese and 21% morbidly obese. Five species had median captive body masses that exceeded the overweight threshold. Our results indicate that obesity is a serious problem in captive lemurs. Recommendations are provided for how much each species of lemur should weigh, along with the ranges for the overweight, obese and morbidly obese categories to help captive colony managers monitor their lemurs.

Bristol Zoo Gardens

COMMENDATION received in BIAZA Awards 2012 for Best Field Conservation Project

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