Thanksgiving Lemur Lessons

23 11 2011

Beth Marie Mole


By Beth Marie Mole


Did you remember to invite your relatives to Thanksgiving?

How about your extremely distant relatives?

Lemur Feast. Courtesy of the San Francisco Zoo


The folks at the San Francisco Zoo remembered. In fact, they laid out their fine china, cooked a colorful feast, and pulled up chairs for 15 distant relatives—the zoo’s lemurs.

In an event called ‘Feast for the Beasts,’ the zoo’s adorable primitive primates enjoyed a banner Thanksgiving banquet. The menu included green beans, fruit salad, sweet potatoes, and a faux turkey made from monkey chow. Guests drank from champagne glasses filled with apple juice and adorned with grapes. No word on whether they made a toast, though.

The party started in proper seats, according to zoo official Lora LaMarca. But the lively lemurs quickly threw the ‘elbow rule’ aside—along with general etiquette—as they hopped onto the table to enjoy their good eats.

Keep your tail off the table! A lemur enjoys some fruit while committing a feast faux pas. Photo courtesy of Susan Schafer

The Thanksgiving feast isn’t just a special treat for them, though; it’s also an exercise. Zookeepers wrapped some of the food in little boxes, providing a playful search that employs the foraging skills they would rely on in the wild.

The fifteen lemurs—6 ring-tailed, 4 red-ruffed, 3 black and white, and 2 black—live and monkey-around in the zoo’s lemur forest, which was founded in collaboration with the Madagascar Fauna Group. The group works on conservation efforts in the lemur’s homeland of Madagascar where they face deforestation, hunting, and illegal pet traders.

A red-ruffed lemur enjoying some juice. Photo courtesy of Susan Schafer

Madagascar, which is roughly the size of Texas, hosts 5% of the world’s plant and animal species.  There are approximately 100 species of lemurs there—depending on how you define species—and they’re all considered either endangered or threatened.

Madagascar is located off the eastern coast of Africa and is the world's fourth largest island. Photo by Beth Mole

But in San Francisco, the only thing they’re in danger of is having bad table manners.

Happy Thanksgiving!




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