Henry Vilas Zoo Soon to Be Home to Family of Ring-Tailed Lemurs

October 17, 2013
Casey Slaughter Becker, County Executive's Office (608) 267-8823, or cell (608) 843-8858; Jeff Halter, Deputy Zoo Director (608) 515-8805
County Executive

New Addition to Replace Chimpanzees Headed to New Home


The Henry Vilas Zoo will soon be home to a family of ring-tailed lemurs, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


The addition of the dynamic lemurs will enable the zoo to educate the public with living examples of different kinds of primates including Great Apes, Old World Monkeys, and others.


“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,” said Parisi.


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


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


The lemur group will be replacing the zoo’s beloved chimpanzees. The AZA Chimpanzee SSP has recently recommended that all chimps be kept in groups of 4-7 to best meet their social needs. 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.”


Henry Vilas Zoo worked with the AZA Chimpanzee SSP and decided that the best choice for Magadi and Cookie is to join a group of chimpanzees at Lincoln Park Zoo.  Lincoln Park Zoo is home to both one of the top chimpanzee enclosures in the country, and to Dr. Steve Ross, the AZA Chimpanzee SSP Committee Chair and leading chimpanzee expert.


Another positive for forming a chimpanzee group at the Lincoln Park Zoo – Henry Vilas Zoo’s Magadi was born at Lincoln Park Zoo and will be reunited with her daughter, Vicki, and her half-sister, Kibali.


Both zoo staffs are working together to ensure the smoothest transition for Magadi and Cookie in their new home.  Prior to the chimps’ departure, Lincoln Park Zoo primate staff worked with them at the Henry Vilas Zoo to learn from the chimps’ current keepers.  Magdi and Cookie’s primary keeper from the Henry Vilas Zoo accompanied them to the Lincoln Park Zoo and will spend 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 Henry Vilas Zoo prepares for the arrival of their new lemur group this fall.


Guests can visit the Henry Vilas Zoo animal family every day from 9:30am to 5pm.  The public can also keep up to date on everything new at the zoo at vilaszoo.orgor on the zoo’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/HenryVilasZoo.


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