Chimps at Henry Vilas Zoo to be replaced by lemurs

Lemur family should arrive later this fall, officials say

Published On: Oct 17 2013 03:28:34 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 17 2013 04:47:10 PM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

The Henry Vilas Zoo will soon become the home to a family of ring-tailed lemurs, according to a release.

By adding the lemur family to the zoo, the public will have the opportunity to see living examples of different kinds of primates including great apes, old world monkeys and others, officials said.

“We look forward to the fun and educational opportunities that this lemur group will provide the community,” said Ronda Schwetz, zoo director.

The ring-tailed lemur is near-endangered in the wild due mostly to the loss of their forest homes, according to the release. By providing a home for the lemurs, the Henry Vilas Zoo is helping the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Ring-Tailed Lemur Species Survival Plan populate animals and contribute to the preservation of the species in North American zoos.

“The addition of lemurs to our animal family presents another great opportunity for the Henry Vilas Zoo staff to do what they do best -- provide excellent care to conserve animal populations and educate the public about the world around them,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said.

The lemur family will be replacing the zoo’s chimpanzees, Magadi and Cookie, who will be joining a group of chimpanzees at Lincoln Park Zoo, according to the release. The AZA recently recommended that all chimps be kept in groups of 4-7 to best meet their social needs, so small groups of chimpanzees across the country are being moved to larger groups.

“Our primary concern is always what is best for the animal,” said Schwetz. “We are very sad that Magadi and Cookie will leave us, but we are so excited about what this opportunity will provide them.”

According to the release, Magadi was born at Lincoln Park Zoo and will be reunited with her daughter, Vicki, and her half-sister, Kibali.

Lincoln Park Zoo primate staff worked with Magadi, Cookie and their current keepers to ensure the smoothest transition for the chimps to their new home, officials said. The chimps’ primary keeper from the Henry Vilas Zoo accompanied them to the Lincoln Park Zoo and spent time there to help them adjust to their new surroundings.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Magadi and Cookie to go to one of the best exhibits in the country and be with chimps in a larger group,” said Mary Schmidt, primate keeper.

The chimpanzee exhibit will be under renovation for a short time as the zoo prepares for the arrival of the new lemur family this fall, officials said.