Just another day at the office, if your office happens to be the Myakka City Lemur Reserve! Summer is over, and now the LCF team is keeping a watchful eye in the south FLorida sky during ‘Hurricane Season.’ The reserve is a wild area, with several habitat grooming issues to consider.
For example, mowing is a very important part of the summer routine. Keeping the fast growing grasses cut is important because it provides a clear sight line through the property. Our staff then has improved visualization of the area and allows newly planted trees to grow quickly.
Our natural habitats and a free ranging lemur colony are central to the Lemur Conservation Foundation mission. In our forest enclosures LCF lemurs encounter every element in the natural world just as they would in their forested home in Madagascar. Our unique colony provides opportunities for scientific research and observation. It also means that lemurs retain their native behaviors. In this ever-changing and diverse environment our colony lemurs coexist in multi-species habitat. They are enriched and stimulated by natural fluctuations and native Florida flora and fauna.
Some special land management challenges are the result of this unique habitat. LCF team member Pete Shover uses the Kubota tractor, bush hog, front end loader and Limbinator to ‘bush hog’ the entire property several times each year. This is an important part of our safety and emergency protocol. It includes routine maintenance of fire breaks, a precaution necessary in the event of lightning strikes creating a wild-fire during the heat the long Florida summer
The Limbinator allows is to easily trim trees and keep the fence lines clear. This precaution prevents the lemurs from trying to jump from their enclosure. It also minimizes potential damage from trees and tree limbs during wind and rain events. Vigilant pruning minimizes damage to the fence line. In the event a fence is breached by damage or trees felled by a storm, each lemur is fitted with a telemetry collar that allows LCF staff to locate individual animals by the unique signal that is received from each individual’s collar.
Because native animals occasionally or opportunistically attempt to enter the lemur enclosures the fences are buried deep into the ground. This land management strategy prevents animals like the large, wild board found on the reserve from rooting into the fenced habitats. Over time the wet habitat and pressure from rooting can compromise areas of the fence. Occasionally a hole will form. 2012’s Tropical Storm Debbie and Hurricane Isaac created conditions for an opening in the fence. Some native wildlife entered the forests. LCF Animal Management staff located three alligators and an otter in the North Enclosure. Our animal team acted quickly to capture and relocate two of the three alligators, and baited the otter to leave the enclosure on its own. The third alligator swam out through the opening in the fence. The fence is routinely repaired or replaced efficiently and in a cost-effective manner thanks to the new tractor and front end loader attachment. We can now respond immediately to our land management needs without costly equipment rentals. The lemurs were confined in the hurricane domes during this process. LCF staff thoroughly inspects the forest after severe weather events before these genetically priceless primates are released.