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CHESTER ZOO: Adorable dancing lemurs arrive in style

Video: SWNS

Adorable pictures show two rare ‘dancing lemurs’ strutting their stuff after arriving at Chester Zoo for an endangered species breeding programme.

The pair of critically endangered Coquerel’s sifaka lemurs have never been seen before in Europe.

The animals have a distinctive "sideways gallop" which makes them look like they are dancing.

This week eight-year-old lemurs Beatrice and Elliot moved into Chester Zoo from the Duke Lemur Centre, 4,000 miles away in North Carolina.

Three other pairs will also move to two zoos in Germany in the near future to establish a vital new European endangered species breeding programme.

Holly Webb, Primate Keeper at Chester Zoo, said: “When down on the ground, Coquerel's sifaka lemurs move around with a fascinating sideways gallop while gracefully holding up their arms for balance – it rather looks like they’re doing an elegant dance.

“When in the trees they jump from spindly branch to branch with incredible precision.

“They’re amazing acrobats and can leap an impressive 30 feet with their powerful legs – that’s quite a distance when you’re only two feet tall.

“Sifaka have special nutritional needs and our team of keepers is now working closely with our onsite veterinary and logistics teams to help determine a specific diet plan for them.

“As vegetarians, they’ll eat a mixture of different plant species, so we’ve began growing some more unusual and tasty trees just for them, right here at the zoo.

“It’s a real, real privilege to be able to care for this enthralling species and we’re sure that visitors to the zoo will love learning all about them.

“Crucially though, we hope that Beatrice and Elliot will help us to highlight the struggles that these charming, charismatic animals face in the wild and will inspire people to want to do their bit to help protect the future of nature on our planet.”

Sifakas, which come from Madagascar, have declined by 80 per cent in just 30 years due to mass-scale loss of its forest home.

Mike Jordan, Animal & Plant Director at Chester Zoo, said: “Coquerel's sifaka lemurs are critically endangered and what we aim to do now is to establish a safety-net population in Europe’s top zoos and help to prevent their extinction and preserve options for future conservation.

“Deforestation is a huge issue in the lemurs’ native Madagascar and they are restricted to several tiny fragments of forest in North Western Madagascar.

“Sadly, a lot of the protection that was once in place for forests and national parks no longer exists, which is why forests are being destroyed en masse - from burning to provide pasture for livestock to logging for charcoal production.

“In the wake of such dramatic habitat loss, it’s vital that progressive, conservation zoos use their unique position and knowhow to protect this iconic species from being lost forever.

“Coquerel's sifaka lemurs are very delicate animals and a specific set of skills and expertise is needed to look after them.

“Our keepers are some of just a few people in the world that now have experience of caring for them - that’s a big reason for why Chester Zoo was chosen to for this important new European project.”

Words: Sophie Wheeler, South West News Service

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