The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday November 30th

Lemurpalooza: Duke center aims to raise awareness for lemur care and conservation

<p>Onyx, a ring-tailed lemur, looks out of his cage during Lemurpalooza at Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC, on Saturday.</p>
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Onyx, a ring-tailed lemur, looks out of his cage during Lemurpalooza at Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC, on Saturday.

The Duke Lemur Center hosted its semiannual event, Lemurpalooza, on Saturday. 

The event allowed attendees to view the center's lemur habitats at their own pace and also featured activities for families to learn more about lemurs and the center's conservation projects.

Megan McGrath, education programs manager at the center, said the importance of the event cannot be overstated, because it gets people interested on a personal level. 

“There’s a very different connection people get going on our Walking With Lemurs tours out here where they get to go into a forest with lemurs all around them, see them in their natural setting,” she said.  

The event started five years ago as an extension of the center’s community outreach program, Adopt a Lemur, said Greg Dye, director of operations and administration at the center.

“They don’t get to actually take them home, but they get a certificate and they get quarterly updates on the animal they’ve adopted,” he said. “All the funds we raise from that program go to the care and conservation of those animals.” 

Deborah Rosenzweig, a visitor from Raleigh, said her son Hal loves lemurs, and their family had tickets for the event since August. 

“We feel really strongly that starting some of those lessons young is really important," she said. "It’s all about teaching conservation and leading by example, so if we come to these events and we’re excited, then they’ll come and be excited, and that’s how we can teach them and hopefully make things better for when they’re bigger.”

The Lemur Center also works with local communities in Madagascar to promote conservation on the island, said Charles Welch, the center’s conservation coordinator. Welch oversees programs in the Sava region and said conservation is an important part of the center’s mission.

“We’re losing species every day, every hour, at a rate that’s over 100 times the natural rate if humans weren’t here," he said. "Madagascar is particularly unique because it’s an island that’s been isolated for 80 million years, so over 80 percent of the plants and animals that you find on Madagascar exist nowhere else in the world."

The center works with villagers in Madagascar to promote reforestation, sustainable agriculture and family planning. 

“Ninety percent of the forest in Madagascar is already gone — there’s only 10 percent that’s left,” Welch said. “So you know, of course, our main interest is lemurs because we’re a lemur center, but if we protect forests, we can protect everything that’s in the forest, and that’s good for the people too.” 

Anna Grace McCall, a ninth-grade volunteer at the center from Cary, said it is important to conserve what is left of the lemurs’ natural habitat, and events like this get the public interested and involved. 

“They are distant relatives to us, so we do have a common ancestor, which I think is really cool," she said. "We should preserve them for research and just because they’re an amazing species.” 

The Daily Tar Heel adopted a sifaka lemur at the event. 



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