When an adorable Crowned lemur arrives at the Brandywine Zoo in the spring, the zoo will join the ranks of a rare number of facilities hosting the highly endangered, orange-headed animal.
The Zoo broke ground this week on its Madagascar Exhibit, an outdoor space that will soon be home to several new and endangered animals. The newcomers will include three Radiated Tortoises and three species of lemurs: the Black and White Ruffed, Ring-Tailed and Crowned, named for the crown-shaped, orange pattern of fur above its brow.
A total of eight lemurs will join the Madagascar Exhibit. The crowned lemurs are a breeding pair, part of the American Zoological Association’s (AZA) Species Survival Plan, and the hope is that their family will expand in the years to come.
Ninety-four percent of lemur species are endangered or critically endangered.
The Madagascar Exhibit will be home to three black and white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegate), two crowned lemurs (Eulemur coronatus), and three ring tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). The habitat will also house three radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiate).
“It is wonderful to see the Brandywine Zoo participate in these Species Survival Plans to help maintain an insurance population for generations to come,” said Delaware Zoological Society Executive Director Michael T. Allen.
As part of the Crowned lemur survival plan, a male and a female will be paired for breeding at the zoo. Just 30 of the species exist in the Americas — 18 males and 12 females. Brandywine Zoo will become the 12th location on the entire North American continent where Crowned lemurs can be viewed by the public.
At nearly 4,000 square feet, the Madagascar Exhibit will be one of the zoo’s largest display habitats. It will include interactive features and information about conservation concerns in Madagascar. The project will take approximately six months to complete, and some areas of the zoo will be closed during construction.
The Madagascar Exhibit cost approximately $3.5 million, funded through multiple State, Federal and private sources.
DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin says the Zoo looks forward to expanding its role in promoting sustainable practices and caring for endangered species. “The Madagascar Exhibit and other planned upgrades will bring our guests close to rare animals and provide crucial lessons about how humans can lessen their impact on species extinction.”
Largest capital improvement in zoo history
The Madagascar Exhibit is part of the Brandywine Zoo’s recently approved Master Plan and will be the largest capital improvement in the zoo’s history. The Master Plan focuses on improved animal welfare and guest experiences, species of conservation concern, and the inclusion of more mixed-species exhibits.
Brandywine Zoo Director Brint Spencer said combining three species of lemurs and the Radiated Tortoise into one exhibit will create a more active space.
“Having multiple animals sharing a habitat provides natural social enrichment for the animals as they interact with each other and make the exhibits more interesting for the visitors as they watch these interactions,” he said.
Zoo Re-imagined Capital Campaign
To help support the new exhibit with additional habitat and facility updates, the Delaware Zoological Society just launched a three-year, $5 million Zoo-Re-imagined Capital Campaign alongside the Madagascar Habitat construction.
The Zoological Society capital campaign will help fund an entryway, updated exhibits, and a wetlands exhibit. Most of the new habitats, buildings, and viewing areas are available for sponsorship.