Twin ring-tailed lemurs have been born at Chester Zoo. —Reuters

Twin ring-tailed lemurs have been born at Chester Zoo. The delightful duo arrived to seven-year-old mum Fiona following 135-day-long pregnancy and have been clinging tightly to her ever since. At just 15cm tall, the tiny twins are each no bigger than ‘tennis balls with tails’ and weigh just a few hundred grams. Zookeepers have not yet been able to confirm the genders of the new arrivals, as baby lemurs spend the first few months of life piggybacking on their mums. 

Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there have been huge declines in lemur populations on the African island of Madagascar – the only place where all of the world’s lemur species are found. Primate conservationists say the island has lost around 90% of its original forest cover, stripping the lemurs of their vital habitat and exposing them to hunting and collection for the illegal pet trade. Experts fear as many as half of all lemurs have disappeared from the wild in the last 36 years. Mike Jordan, Director of Animals and Plant Collections at Chester Zoo, said: “Ring-tailed lemurs are one of the planet’s highest primate conservation priorities, so we’re absolutely thrilled to see two tiny babies born into the group here at Chester. 

“Wonderfully, youngsters are born just like miniature adults and already have all of their fur markings, including their iconic black and white tails, which they use to help identify one another. At the moment, they’re staying close to mum, but it’ll only be a matter of weeks before they start to branch out and climb independently – then they’ll be a real handful for the whole group. “It’s sad to consider just how endangered they have become, but the birth of these twins gives a timely boost to the international conservation breeding program for these fantastically charismatic animals.

We hope these new arrivals also help to inspire a wider awareness of Madagascar’s urgent conservation crisis!

—Reuters