New Lemur Species Discovered by Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium Scientists

Photo by EE Louis Jr.
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Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s Conservation Genetics Department and the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership have identified a new lemur species in Madagascar.

This is the 23rd lemur species that has been discovered by the Zoo since it began its conservation efforts on the island nation in 1999.

The species, a type of dwarf lemur, was found in northern Madagascar’s Montagne d’Ambre National Park, a highly diverse area made up of montane and mid-altitude rainforest and dry, deciduous forest. The national park is home to many microendemic plants and wildlife, meaning they are exclusive to this small part of the world.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s scientists assessed the genetic differences between other lemurs in the same genus, among other comprehensive research, before publishing their findings in a scientific journal.

The lemur, similar in size to a small squirrel, is reddish-brown in color with a white underside and has brownish-black rings around the eyes. It has been named Andy Sabin’s dwarf lemur, in honor of New York businessman and philanthropist Andy Sabin, who has supported many global environmental projects. The species, also known as the Montagne d’Ambre dwarf lemur, is recognized by its scientific name Cheirogaleus andysabini.

More than 90 percent of all lemurs—arboreal primates—are at risk or vulnerable to extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, but the status of Andy Sabin’s dwarf lemur is currently unknown. Montagne d’Ambre National Park’s close proximity to the town of Joffreville and large port city of Antisiranana puts the species at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction and hunting.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s Conservation Genetics Department, led by Dr. Edward Louis, continues to be the leader in lemur conservation and research. Sixteen years ago, the Zoo established the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, a Malagasy non-governmental organization, to help preserve and protect Madagascar’s unique biodiversity and lemur populations. The organization has camp sites in four of the country’s cities—Analamazaotra, Kianjavato, Lavavolo and Antsiranana—and has implemented many community involvement projects.

The Zoo spends about $1 million annually on in-house scientists and has spent an additional $500,000 in recent years on conservation efforts beyond the Zoo’s day-to-day reach.