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Happy Hollow Blog

Some exciting lemur news

Thursday, 3/26

Happy Hollow has some joyful news to share!

You may have read our previous blog post (A new baby at Happy Hollow?) and we are ecstatic to report that Vintana, the black and white ruffed lemur, is in fact pregnant!

A recent X-Ray shows that Vintana is pregnant. Courtesy of Vet Tech Rachel.

Vintana’s history includes some difficult births, so veterinary staff members are monitoring her closely in an attempt to answer important questions about this pregnancy, including how many babies to expect.

Since our last update, a dedicated team of zookeepers (led by Senior Zookeeper Melissa Young and Registered Veterinary Technician Rachel Atkins) have been training Vintana to participate willingly in her own care. This includes teaching her behaviors that allow us to track the progress of her pregnancy, such as standing still for X-rays while inside an open PVC frame.

As a reward for voluntarily participating in training sessions, Vintana is given a treat! Of course, patience is a virtue with choice-based training. If at any time Vintana decides not to participate, the team would simply try again later. Luckily, she is proving to be an eager learner.


Senior Zookeeper Melissa working with Vintana inside the X-Ray frame. Photo: Zookeeper AJ

“With Vintana’s eagerness to learn, and our training team’s hard work and dedication to Vintana’s welfare, she has progressed through the steps to achieve these behaviors quickly,” says Senior Zookeeper Melissa.

Once she was accustomed to getting in position and standing still, we introduced her to the equipment needed to take an X-ray. This included protective lead aprons, the X-ray generator, and the tablet running the X-ray software. Thanks to our new digital X-ray machine, (a recent gift from generous donors) the X-rays of Vintana were taken while she was awake and calm, with no need for anesthesia — which is often risky for animals.

“Everything went exactly as planned, and she was positioned perfectly” says Vet Tech Rachel. “Training our animals to participate in their own health care takes time, but it is worth it to be able to get these kinds of diagnostics without adding stress to the animal.”

The team will continue practicing these behaviors with Vintana in case the need to X-ray arises again before her due date mid-April.

Vintana is also getting comfortable with the vet feeling her abdomen, and acclimating to being away from her two male roommates — including Nify, her mate — while in off-exhibit housing. The time apart from others will give her a chance to bond with her young and allow keepers and vet staff to monitor her and the offspring closely after birth.

Managers, zookeepers and vet staff are also preparing to monitor Vintana at all hours of the day closer to her due date. With her history of difficult births, the team will also prepare for emergency intervention if necessary.

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.

To be continued…