It was a double surprise for keepers who came into work last week to find two baby ring-tailed lemurs had been born overnight.
The babies were born to twin sisters, Mavis and Ethel, who appear to have synchronised their births.
The lemur mating season is relatively short so it is not unusual for babies to be born at similar times, but to have babies born within hours of each other was very unexpected.
The little lemurs are just 10 days old and keepers do not yet know their sex as they are still too small and cling tightly to their mothers. Born weighing less than 100g (3oz) each, the babies are doing well, appear strong and have been feeding well.
Bristol Zoo’s mammal team leader, Sarah Gedman, said: “Although ring-tailed lemur pregnancies are not always visually obvious, we suspected that both Mavis and Ethel were pregnant as they had both been mated during the breeding season and had been putting on weight. We often have a few lemur babies born in spring and summertime, but to have two babies born within hours of each other, to twin mothers, is exceptional.”
She added: “It’s really exciting and a great boost for our close-knit family group - the other lemurs have been taking a keen interest in the babies and we are keeping a close eye on them in these early days. We are very much looking forward to watching these new cousins grow-up together as playmates.”
Mavis has previously had three offspring at Bristol – Maximus, Dorothy and Leonidas – all of which still live in the family group. The new arrivals take the total number of ring-tailed lemurs in the walk-through lemur exhibit to nine. The enclosure is also home to a family of five crowned lemurs.
The babies will be carried on their mothers’ chests for the first few weeks and then will ride piggyback. Youngsters will start eating solid food from two weeks old, gradually becoming more independent and exploring on their own. Despite this, youngsters are not fully weaned until five months old.
Ring-tailed lemurs are an endangered species, found only in the forests of southern Madagascar, an island off the southeast coast of Africa. Habitat destruction is the biggest threat to the survival of all lemur species. The wild population of ring-tailed lemurs has declined steeply over the last few decades, and most populations now only occur in small fragmented forests.
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the Zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.