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“Cool. Is that a monkey?”
“Does she tear meat with those sharp teeth?”
“Hey, isn’t she on that TV show—Zoboomafu?”
She’s not a monkey—although she does have a tail like one. No, she doesn’t eat meat with her sharp teeth, but she sure tears through tough-skinned fruit with them. And, yes, she does look like Zoboo, the cute little creature from the popular children’s show. But she’s a different type of lemur than Zoboo.
As a wildlife educator, trainer, and speaker, I get to answer lots of questions about exotic animals like lemurs. The presentations I give throughout the U.S. allow people to experience God’s wonderful creatures up close and personal.
One of my favorites, among the nearly 40 wild animals I own and care for, is Maddy, a 7-year-old black-and-white ruffed lemur. I have representatives from all three main types of primates—apes, monkeys, and prosimians (primates that rely on smell rather than sight). The black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegate variegate) is from the prosimian group, which has a tail, unlike apes.
While Zoboomafoo helped make this playful primate popular, the animated film Madagascar brought notoriety to her. Who could forget the fun-loving singing and dancing lemurs: King Julien, the ring-tailed lemur; Maurice, the aye-aye; and Mort, the Goodman’s mouse lemur?
Madagascar, the place from which lemurs come, is just as interesting as these animals. This amazing island, located off the southeastern part of Africa, was once named Lemuria for its abundant population of lemurs.
Biologists continue to wonder exactly how lemurs arrived on this island. One possibility is that lemurs might have crossed over from Africa on floating log mats some time after the global Flood of Noah’s day.
According to Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Madagascar and the nearby Comoros Islands are home to nearly 88 different species of lemurs. The number and classification of species are changing as more DNA studies are conducted. For instance, in 2006 genetic analysis revealed three previously unknown species of lemurs, including one of the world’s smallest primates, a type of mouse lemur.1
One amazing feature that I love to point out about Maddy is her very large canines. While some evolutionists mistakenly assume that sharp teeth normally indicate meat-eating behavior, we know that God originally designed all animals to be vegetarian, and lemurs are still vegetarian.
However, Adam’s fall into sin changed everything, including the behavior and diet of many animals. In observing lemurs, we see that God likely designed their sharp, pointy canines to rip open hard-skinned fruits and vegetables, which are key elements of their diet today. Just because an animal has sharp teeth is not an indication it eats meat.
Lemurs spend most of their time close to their food—high in the top half of the forest canopy where the fruit is plentiful. Female lemurs build nests for their young in the treetops, 60 to 80 feet (18–24 m) above the ground. Using her mouth to tear off and carry narrow branches, the mother builds one or more nests and uses some of her own soft fur to finish them off. After she gives birth to her babies (twins are common), the black-and-white ruffed lemur transports them in her mouth from nest to nest as she forages for food.
Another really cool feature of lemurs is their unique grooming tooth on the bottom of their jaw. Similar to a hair pick, this grooming tooth is essentially several teeth fused together. Lemurs use this tooth to groom their hair, along with two grooming claws on their hind “feet,” which have been referred to as another set of hands.
Lemurs have the ability to jump from tree to tree up to 30 feet (9 m). This incredible ability is possible because of their powerful legs, which are built like a rabbit’s or a kangaroo’s.
When I look at Maddy, I wonder how some people can believe she is the result of evolutionary processes. Showing Maddy to people gives me the opportunity to explain what an amazing designer our God is. He gave lemurs exactly what they need to live in the treetops of Madagascar, just as He gave us what we need to understand the wonders of His Creation.