Looking for adventure this summer, but unable to travel to exotic lands? Then look no further than the Duke Lemur Center - the experience of Madagascar in our very own Durham!

Just two miles outside of Duke University’s campus, over 50 years of lemur research and conservation has occurred at the Duke Lemur Center. With help from the Duke University School of Medicine and the National Science Foundation, biologists John Buettner-Janusch and Peter Klopfer founded the Duke Lemur Center (previously known as the Duke University Primate Center) in 1966. Together, they established an internationally acclaimed facility to study health, behavior, genomics, and more in lemurs and their close relatives non-invasively. Today, the Duke Lemur Center houses the largest living collection of endangered primates in the world (both in population size and range of species) within 80 wooded acres of Durham.

For millions of years, lemurs flourished on the island of Madagascar where they had few natural predators, large swaths of land to call home, and plenty of lush vegetation for food. When humans began settling on the island about 2,000 years ago this began to change. Since humans first arrived on Madagascar, one third of all lemur species have become extinct and many more are endangered. To combat this issue, the Duke Lemur Center partnered with a number of other accredited institutions to design sustainable conservation breeding programs called Species Survival Plans (SSPs) in the hopes of creating a “genetic safety net” for rare and endangered species like the aye-aye, sifika, and blue-eyed black lemurs. Since the founding of the Duke Lemur Center, the facility has birthed over 3,285 animals and has celebrated three more births this year!

The first lemur birthed this season was Ranomasina, a blue-eyed black lemur who become one of only 34 located in North America and now belongs to one of the most endangered primate groups in the world. Ranomasina, whose name means “sea,” is also exceptional because she was delivered via cesarean section, which has only happened 15 times since the founding and is the offspring of lemurs from Madagascar making her “genetically valuable.” Bobby Schopler, a veterinarian who has worked at the Duke Lemur Center since 2005, called it “the most important birth in the 13 years I’ve worked here.” The Duke Lemur Center welcomed its second birth of the year on March 14 when Gellar, whose named after the actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, was born to parents Wiig and Hiddleston. Just eight days later, the Lemur Center welcomed baby Mark Hamill into the world. Honored to have a lemur named after himself, Mark Hamill tweeted the Duke Lemur Center back upon hearing the news! Gellar and Hamill spent their first few days like most at the Duke Lemur Center- in an independent “baby suite” with their mothers. This is done to increase infant mortality rates, which are significantly higher when the mother and infant are separated from other members until the infant is stronger and less vulnerable. Around the beginning of April, Gellar and Hamill were both reintroduced to their families and are doing wonderfully!


The Duke Lemur Center is a public facility that welcomes over 25,000 visitors every year to learn about lemurs, science, and conservation. It’s open 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m year-round and offers a variety of options for all ages and budgets. Touring requires a reservation as they typically book around 2 weeks beforehand, but last-minute appointments are sometimes available so calling is always welcomed. Reservations can be made via the phone at (919) 401-7240 or with an online reservation request form. Check out Ranomasina, Gellar, Hamill, and the rest of the rare and amazing animals today!