The Belfast Zoo team is jumping for joy with the arrival of a crowned sifaka baby. This endangered bouncing bundle of joy was born to mother, Linoa and father, Tilavo, who are one of the few breeding pairs in Europe. Belfast Zoo was the first zoo in the UK and Ireland to breed this species in 2008 and this success has continued with the arrival of the latest baby!
The infant was born on 30 March 2017. However, for the first few months the infant holds onto the mother’s stomach and for that reason keepers were not able to determine the sex. Linoa has recently started to carry the infant on her back to the delight of visitors who have been able to spot the bright-eyed baby. This has also allowed keepers to determine that the arrival is a boy and he has been named Latif.
Zoo curator, Julie Mansell, said: “Belfast Zoo first became home to crowned sifaka in 2004. Mother, Linoa, arrived in 2007 to join our male, Andry. In 2008, the pair welcomed the first baby to be born in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Sadly, Andry passed away of old age and we have since welcomed Tilavo. Since becoming home to this species, five crowned sifakas have been successfully bred at the Cave Hill site and these offspring have moved to other zoos around the world as part of the European breeding programme for the species.”
Crowned sifakas are a member of the lemur family and, as such, are found on the island of Madagascar. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and is home to more than 250,000 species, 70% of which are found nowhere else in the world. However, Madagascar is one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. More than 80% of the forest habitat on the island has disappeared since the 1950s, leaving sifakas and other irreplaceable species in danger of extinction. It is estimated that crowned sifaka populations have decreased by more than 50% in the last 50 years. The crowned sifaka is therefore facing an ever increasing threat of extinction and their are only approximately 20 animals living in zoos around the world.
Julie continues: “The animals of Madagascar are facing increasing threats and the fragility of the future of the crowned sifaka is also highlighted by the fact that the infant mortality rate for the species is 80%. Caring for one of the few breeding pairs in Europe, we have a vital and active role to play in the conservation of the species. We work closely with our group of four crowned sifakas and carry out a daily training routine with these lemurs. This training includes a process of training Linoa to allow us to approach her stomach area and this is done throughout the year in anticipation of any young being born. This training is carried out with a small sifaka soft toy and, as Linoa is familiar with this process, she allows keepers to do the same training when a newborn arrives. This allows us to check on the newborn without any stress to the mum or the infant. The first few months are always an anxious time and, although we know that the statistics are against us, we are delighted with Litiff’s progress to date.”
Belfast Zoo is home to a number of species from the island of Madagascar including fossa, Madagascan tree boa, ring-tailed lemur, red-bellied lemur, white-belted ruffed lemur and crowned lemur.
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