Tiny lemur weighing less than an apple born at conservation park

A tiny lemur weighing less than an apple has been born at a conservation park in Bristol.

The Alaotran gentle lemur, whose sex is currently unknown, arrived at Wild Place Project a few weeks ago.

Its birth will help safeguard the future of the species, which is classed as critically endangered.

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Joe Norman, animal team leader at Wild Place Project, said: “We are thrilled by all births here but this one is especially significant.

“Because of the difficulties gentle lemurs are facing in the wild, the success of the captive breeding programme is vitally important.

“There are currently just 71 gentle lemurs known to exist in zoos across the world and only 17 in the UK, meaning that Bristol Zoological Society has 14% of the ex-situ population, more than any other institution.”

The gentle lemur is the third to be born to mother Tiana and father Roa in the past three years.

Mr Norman said it was making great progress, with experienced mother Tiana looking after it well.

It could be six months before keepers know whether the lemur, which will only reach between 30 and 40cm in length when fully grown, is male or female.

“The infant is clinging onto its mum and will occasionally be passed on to its dad so visitors stand a very good chance of seeing it,” Mr Norman said.

“But it will be a couple of months before it starts to move around on its own.”

In the wild, the lemurs are found around Lake Alaotra in Madagascar and are the only primate to have adapted to living in reed and papyrus beds using their hands, feet and tails for grasping and balancing.

The species is critically endangered due to areas where it lives being converted into rice paddy fields.

Marshlands around Lake Alaotra have also been burnt so people can catch fish and create areas to graze cattle.

Gentle lemurs are also targeted by hunters who catch them for food and to keep as pets.