Lemur Update

February 3, 2023

On Wednesday January 11th, a family overheard noises in their garage, and thinking it was just a local wild animal or stray cat, they were surprised to see that it was a ring-tailed lemur. The family contacted the Illinois Conservation Police, who asked the Miller Park Zoo for assistance. Jay (Miller Park Zoo Director) and Rose (Animal Keeper) met with the Illinois Conservation Police at the home. In the meantime, the family had offered the lemur fruit and kept an eye on him until help arrived. Many people recognize this primate species from DreamWorks Animation Madagascar, a movie about a group of animals at the New York Zoo that end up in the jungles of Madagascar and are trying to make it back home. During their adventure,  they meet a variety of characters, including “King Julian”, the self-proclaimed king of the ring-tailed lemurs.

The recently rescued “King Julian” is currently at Miller Park Zoo, safely housed and under expert care. As the Illinois Conservation Police and local authorities investigate ownership and permitting, MPZ will temporarily remain stewards of the animal. Once the state ascertains what will happen with the lemur, the Zoo will work with authorities to decide the appropriate next steps.

Ring tailed lemurs are native to Madagascar island and are currently listed as “endangered” by the IUCN Red List. These special species have evolved to live in large troops, engaging in social interactions with members of their own species. Lemurs are not domesticated and should not be kept as pets; they possess large canine teeth, which can cause significant injury, and animals may carry zoonotic pathogens which can be transmitted directly to humans. All lemurs are protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act and should be managed under expert care by qualified zoological organizations.

Special thanks to all those involved in assisting with recovering the lemur, particularly the Illinois Conservation Police/ Officer. Their communication and ready collaboration allowed the situation to be resolved both swiftly and successfully. If you have any information on this animal’s origins, please contact the Illinois Conservation Police at 1877-236-7529.

UPDATE (January 17):  Julian is doing well here at the zoo. He is eating and is becoming more relaxed around staff. He will have a vet examination this week. We will continue to keep everyone updated on his journey.

UPDATE (February 1): Our resident ring-tailed rescue (extra alliteration in the spirit of Free Fridays in February!) continues to do well under the care of our amazing MPZ animal care team. Keepers report that Julian (still in quarantine) shows more interest in their activities every day, moving from one enclosure to the other (“shifting”) to observe whatever staff members are doing. Julian continues to participate in his training, such as getting onto a scale or shifting when asked so that staff can clean and give him more to do. Julian is becoming increasingly trusting of his keepers, who interact with him several times a day while continuing to provide enrichment opportunities to keep Julian busy. These activities encourage lemur-like (“species-typical”) behaviors, such as foraging and social interaction. It took Julian a few days to warm up to his new stuffed buddy, but they seem to be friends now.

There are no recent updates on the investigation from the Illinois Conservation Police, but MPZ leadership remains in touch and assisting as requested. Thank you for your continued interest in Julian’s well-being and supporting MPZ!!!