If you followed Vintana the black and white ruffed lemur’s pregnancy and birth story last year, you may remember that ?breeding behavior for this critically endangered species often occurs in January, with the possibility of confirming a pregnancy in March or April.
Much to our delight, Vintana and her mate Nify received a multi-year breeding recommendation from the Species Survival Plan program in 2019 – leaving Happy Hollow’s animal care team eager to see if this year’s courtship and breeding would be another success.
In 2020, Senior Keeper Melissa Young and Veterinary Technician Rachel Atkins worked with Vintana to train a behavior where she voluntarily participates in getting an X-ray. ?Through this same behavior, on March 23 of this year, it was confirmed that Vintana is once again expecting!
“The purpose of this behavior is to allow Vintana to actively participate in her own care,” says Melissa. “This type of behavior reduces stress on the animal and helps strengthen the bond with her care team.”
While we are ecstatic to share this news, we are also acutely aware that Vintana’s history includes some difficult births. She is mother to Loka, age 3, and Koa, age 1, both of whom still live here at Happy Hollow, but she has also had multiple unsuccessful pregnancies.
With her history of difficult births, Happy Hollow’s zoo and veterinary team are monitoring Vintana closely, and have also prepared an emergency intervention plan. “Two of Vintana’s earlier pregnancies ended in stillbirths?,” explains Zoo Curator Heather Vrzal. “She has had two successful pregnancies as well, including her most recent, so we are optimistic, but we know that it is never a sure thing. Vintana’s care team is keeping a close eye on her and we are ready to step in and help if needed.”
Lemurs can have from one to six pups at a time, with two being the most common. Following the birth, the public should expect Vintana to be given time away from the rest of the lemur family to bond in off-exhibit housing. This allows keepers and veterinarians to monitor closely for any signs of health issues or discomfort.
Both Vintana and Nify are important contributors to the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s (AZA) Ruffed Lemur Species Survival Plan. Vintana and her animal care team are not just working hard for her and the baby’s health, but to help the species as a whole remain genetically diverse while in managed care. “Every birth of an endangered species is a big deal,” says Zoo Director Kevin Hertell. “Happy Hollow is extremely proud to be doing our part to help black and white ruffed lemurs.”