Red-Bellied Lemur Baby Born at UK Zoo

At birth, it weighed about as much as a banana.

baby red-bellied lemur

Chester Zoo

When the fluffy rare red-bellied lemur baby made an appearance at the Chester Zoo in the U.K., the little one was estimated to weigh about 70 grams. That’s about as much as a banana.

The lemur baby was actually born about six weeks ago, but it was so well hidden in its mom’s thick coat, that only now is the baby becoming easier to spot.

The baby was born to mother Aina (4) and father Frej (8) after a 127-day pregnancy.

“The birth of any lemur is real cause for celebration as these primates are vulnerable to extinction in the wild and every new arrival is a vital addition to the endangered species breeding program. This one, however, is extra special as it’s also the first baby red-bellied lemur ever to be born at Chester Zoo,” Claire Parry, the zoo’s assistant team manager of primates, said in a statement.

“Aina is a first-time mum who’s really taking motherhood in her stride—she’s very confident with her new addition. The baby is always seen clinging on tightly to her, which is exactly what we want to see, and this lovely little lemur looks incredibly content hidden in among mum’s warm fur.”

Protecting Lemurs

red-bellied lemur baby and its mother
Red-bellied lemur baby with its mother. Chester Zoo

For about the first three weeks, red-bellied lemur babies cling to their mother’s bellies, moving around only to nurse. They don’t venture out to take their first steps until they are about 5 weeks old, according to the Duke University Lemur Center. That’s when they’ll start sampling whatever members of their group are eating. They’ll continue to nurse until they are weaned at about 5-6 months old.

Eventually, lemur mothers will refuse to carry their babies, but lemur dads will still give them rides occasionally as they get older.

Red-bellied lemurs are considered to be somewhat sexually dimorphic, which means males and females from the same species have differences in their appearances. Most males and females have chestnut-colored fur on most of their bodies, but females have creamy-white fur on their underbellies. Males have more pronounced white teardrop-shaped patches around their eyes and sometimes bushy hair around their cheeks.

Red-bellied lemurs are classified as vulnerable with their population numbers decreasing, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Lemurs are native only to Madagascar. Almost one-third (31%) of all lemur species are critically endangered, which is just one step away from extinction.

Like most lemur species, red-bellied lemurs face threats from habitat loss due to deforestation. The species is also threatened by hunting because the animals are sometimes sold into the pet trade.

“With lemurs considered as being the most endangered group of mammals in the world by the IUCN, every birth is significant. We need to ensure the species that do now remain on this diverse island are safe and protected,” said Mike Jordan, director of animal and plants at the Chester Zoo.

“That’s why our conservationists have been engaged in protecting habitats and the unique species they are home to in Madagascar for over 10 years now," he adds. "In 2015, the Malagasy government established The Mangabe New Protected Area, co-managed by our field partner Madagasikara Voakajy and the communities that live in Mangabe itself, providing a safe haven for nine species of lemur, as well as lots of other threatened species. We are fully involved in efforts to prevent their extinction.”

View Article Sources
  1. "Zoo celebrates birth of first red-bellied lemur!"Chester Zoo, 2021.

  2. "RED-BELLIED LEMUR." Duke Lemur Center.

  3. Irwin, M., et al. "Red-bellied Lemur." IUCN Red List, 2018, doi:10.2305/