Critically Endangered Blue-Eyed Lemur Born at Florida Zoo

These lemurs have been named among the world's most threatened primates.

A blue-eyed baby lemur born in the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Covered in fuzzy light brown fur, a new critically endangered lemur baby born at a Florida zoo is surveying the world through its large, crystal blue eyes.

The blue-eyed black lemur (Eulemur flavifrons) was recently born as part of the conservation program at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Blue-eyed black lemurs are some of the most threatened primates in the world. The lemurs are classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of at-risk species.

Blue-eyed black lemurs have been named among the 25 most threatened primates on Earth.

Their population numbers have dropped 80% over the past three generations or 24 years. Scientists estimate that there will be an 88% reduction in the lemurs' range from 2000 to 2080 due to climate change alone.

Blue-eyed black lemurs are sexually dichromatic, meaning that males and females have very different appearances. Males are totally black while females are reddish-brown to grayish-orange.

When they’re born, babies have brown fur that blends in with their mother. As they get older, the fur on male lemurs will eventually turn black.

They are the only primates, other than humans, that can consistently have blue eyes. Blue eyes are uncommon in the wild because they offer less protection from the sun than eyes with darker irises. They weigh about 5 pounds (2.4 kilograms) and are about 38 inches (1 meter) long. They have long, bushy tails that they will often keep high in the air as they move around.

About the Lemur Baby

blue-eyed black lemur with parents

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

The lemur pup is the second successful birth of a blue-eyed black lemur at the zoo. The baby was born to mom Hendricks and dad Hemsworth, a pair that came to the zoo in 2017. Their first pup was a girl who left to go live at the San Diego Zoo in July 2021.

Keepers don’t know the new baby’s gender yet. They are giving the family quiet time and space in these early days of development.

“We have many reasons to celebrate this new infant. He or she will further enrich the social environment and experience of the Zoo’s amazing mixed-species lemur group and strengthen the sustainability of the Blue-eyed black lemur population,” Tracy Fenn, assistant curator of mammals, said in a statement. “The Madagascar team is elated to see this infant thriving in the care of the mother.”

Threats and Habitat Loss

The main threat to the blue-eyed black lemur’s survival is habitat loss. The species is found in a very limited area of northwestern Madagascar.

The island country lost 37% of its forest from 1973 to 2014, according to the IUCN. Almost half of Madagascar’s remaining forest is located within 328 feet (100 meters) from the edge of the forest.

Habitat is lost as more forest is converted into agricultural land. Logging, mining, and forest fires have also destroyed much of the lemurs’ home. In some cases, the animals are also hunted for food or trapped to keep as pets.

View Article Sources
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  2. "Blue-eyed Black Lemur." IUCN Red List.

  3. Mittermeier, Russell A., et al. "Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2012– 2014." IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, International Primatological Society, Conservation International, and Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, 2012.

  4. "Blue-eyed Black Lemur," Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

  5. "Blue-Eyed Black Lemur," Los Angeles Zoo.

  6. "Blue-eyed Black Lemur," San Francisco Zoo and Gardens.

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  8. Stepzinski, Teresa. "Awww! Cute and critically endangered baby lemur born at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens." Jacksonville. 29 March 2022.