Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sid, the sweet lemur

Uh. I am still nursing my skull-splitting headache, but have started the "Sid" story. Be warned, this one's a tear jerker.

Back in March, while I was still living at Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, in Madagascar, the park director (the director who shall not be named) showed up. Whenever authorities came around, I got nervous, because there would inevitably be some sort of issue that I needed to deal with. More money, do this, don't do that, etc. Anyhow, this director and I were chatting when he asked me what I would think about a lemur being brought to the park. What? He said there was a man with a "bad" pet lemur and this man wanted to release his bad lemur at the park. What did I think? Absolutely not, I said.

You might ask, why not release a pet lemur into a National Park? Isn't this exactly where this lemur should be?

1. Disease transition. Who knows where this pet has been and what it has been exposed to. If it brought a disease, that disease could spread through the entire wild population, which would have obvious negative effects.

2. Forest knowledge. Has this lemur ever spent time in a forest? If not, it will have no idea of what to eat, or drink, or how to behave with other lemurs. Plus, I had heard whisperings about there being 1 or 2 lemurs in Behelok, which were friends with village cats. If they brought a cat- friendly lemur to the forest, it would be free dinner for an ampaha (wild forest cat) within days. Forest skills (feeding, ranging, predator avoidance, species appropriate behavior) are learned, and without those skills, no lemur would have a chance.

In sum, you cannot just return an animal to the wild. Rehabilitation is possible with some animals, but more often than not, forest life will not work for captive animals. Sad but true.

So I raised these points, at which time the director said that he had to be going, and that I could expect the pet lemur to arrive at around noon the next day. FML.

As promised, the director returned the next day, on a motorbike, with another man (Patrick, a French expat), and a lemur (Sid) on a rope. And thirty minutes later, I was left with Sid and his rope.

Patrick said that 3 years prior he was in Anakoa and some kids had a baby lemur on a rope. Incidentally, Anakoa is the town where I saw fishermen dragging a huge adult critically endangered green sea turtle up the beach, where it was surely butchered. Breaks my heart. Anyhow, Patrick said the kids were being very cruel to the lemur and that it was near death. He felt sorry for the little thing and bought it from the kids*. So, he had this one lemur, whom he nursed back to health, and then two years later in Behelok some kids brought him a yet another baby lemur. He didn't know who/how/where/when/why he was presented with this second lemur, but it latched on to the first, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Except that the villagers of Behelok don't like that he has these lemurs. Imagine if your neighbor took in some maniac raccoon, who terrorized your children, bit your dog, and ransacked your kitchen daily AND left a turd on its way out. That would suck, right? Now separately imagine trying to tell your cat how to behave. Not gonna work, right? Well, that's what happened. The lemurs, particularly Sid, were getting into lots of trouble and there wasn't really anything Patrick could do about it. And then the lemurs started to come home with mysterious injuries. Limping, sore, whimpering, etc., until one day when the female (who's name I never got) returned with a badly fractured back leg, and Sid, less two and a half of his fingers. Someone had had enough, and these poor lemurs were going to pay.

Ok, back to Sid arriving at my forest home. So he'd been living in a house, eating human food, playing with cats, and had never before seen a forest.

What the heck was I supposed to do with him???

Here is Sid, shortly after Patrick left. He ran into the food tent and peered out for an hour or so.


*PLEASE never ever buy an animal under circumstances such as this. Paying for a wild animal only proliferates capturing and selling wild animals. Its kinda like you don't negotiate with hostage takers. You just don't. And you don't buy wild animals from anyone.

Oh, on similar note- PLEASE don't ever pay to have your picture taken with wild animals. Monkeys, parrots, reptiles, etc. These animals are also likely taken from the wild and paying their owners to pose with them only proliferates wild captures. They are not domesticated animals and are not content as pets. Its cruel to take highly intelligent, often endangered critters, from their homes/families/lives, so that they can live on a rope and do tricks for tourists.


  1. I expect Sid became some forest creature's dinner???


  2. I don't think so, but I don't really know...

  3. I have a pet iguana, can you bring him to a desert or something. He is really make a terrible mess....oh and the smell. I guess I don't have to tell you.