LCF determines breeding pairs based onr ecommendations from Population Biologists working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Population Management Center. Because one of the purposes of the Lemur Conservation Foundation is to maintain healthy populations and create opportune circumstances for breeding, some of the female lemurs are actually put on birth control to prevent births. It may seem counter–intuitive to prevent offspring when you are working to conserve endangered species, but this is just one of the many steps taken to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of lemur populations.
For example, lemurs with unknown pedigrees are often not recommended for breeding since it is not known how their offspring would contribute to the population. Although reversible birthcontrol methods are often used in these cases, these methods are not effective for some lemurs. Because of this concern two of our lemurs with unknown genetics have received ovariectomies. Both of these females were previously kept as pets, which is why their pedigrees are unknown. This is yet another example of the negative effects of the pet trade on endangered species.
Another option is to use MGA implants which contain a synthetic progestin called melengestrol acetate. Thisform of birth control is considered effective within a week of insertion. It is typically implanted prior to the breeding season in the fall and is effective for two years.Three of our lemurs received MGA implants this year in order to follow the current breeding recommendations made to ensure the genetic diversity of the populations.
Accurate animal record keeping and careful management of populations are critical to species conservation. Dr. Alison Grand, LCF’s Animal Care Manager and Studbook Keeper for ring–tailed lemurs, is working with other members of the Ring–Tailed Lemur Special Survival Plan program to collect complete and accurate data on the captive population that are used to make breeding recommendations. As part of the collective management of lemur populations, LCF is helping to ensure the best health of our individuals as well as promoting the long-term health and sustainability of their species.