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Holding on to Your Mother


Infant lemurs hitch a ride through the forest by holding on to their mother’s tummy or riding piggyback.

Meet Pia, the mother of two-month-old daughter Gertrude. Pia and Gertrude are Coquerel's sifaka lemurs, and members of a breeding colony at Duke University’s Lemur Center. Lemurs live mostly in trees and are native only to the island of Madagascar, where they are under threat from habitat destruction and hunting. Coquerel’s sifaka form social groups of three to 10 individuals. Because sifaka females are dominant to the males, they are the first to eat, claim the best resting spots, and choose a mate. But they are still the ones to take care of their young. Females typically give birth to one baby, which will at first hold on to its mother’s tummy as she leaps from tree to tree. After about four weeks of tummy-riding the infant starts to ride on mommy’s back. Once a baby lemur is around three to four months old, it has to use its own means of transportation. Although Gertrude has already graduated to holding on to mom’s back, mother Pia often cradles her instead of wearing her like a belt.

Image courtesy of David Haring, Duke University Lemur Center.


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