Lemur Island: Tuesday March 14

lemur island (2/10) 19.15–20.00

In a small, undisturbed corner of the remote island of Madagascar lives a remarkable and unique prosimian species: the ring-tailed lemur. This astonishing new ten-part series, filmed over a year, offers us a lemur’s-eye view of these fascinating creatures as they go about their daily routine of foraging for food, escaping the clutches of predators and fiercely guarding their territory.

The series follows two distinct families, or ‘gangs’, of ring-tails –the Graveyards and the Tornado Troop –who live in a four-square-kilometre patch on the island. This week’s show offers a compelling insight into the bitter internal politics of the Tornado Troop, and reveals the heartbreaking struggle for survival faced by a baby ring-tail with a broken leg.

As well as waging a constant battle for dominance with each other, the two troops have plenty of internal struggles, as the dominant female leaders are regularly in danger of being usurped by ambitious and aggressive footsoldiers. Tornado Troop member Alexis –not unlike her ‘Dynasty’ femme fatale namesake –has established herself literally at the top of the tree through sheer tenacity and bloody-mindedness. It is she who leads the Tornados about their daily business, and she who gets first taste of the best berries in the rainforest. But heavy lies the crown that Alexis wears, as her position is always under threat from the likes of Frieda and Amazon –two headstrong lieutenants who make sure Alexis is never allowed the luxury of complacency.

Unlike the Graveyards, who are a tight family unit, the Tornadoes are a dysfunctional bunch whose members only look after number one. As Amazon puts all her efforts into fending off Alexis, she is neglecting her five-month-old baby, Gizmo. The youngster has to fend for himself at all times, and in the unforgiving jungle, his learning curve is a steep one. He also has to put up with the galling sight of another infant, Chelsea, getting mollycoddled by her doting mum Stella, who carries her daughter about on her back. Gizmo’s life is one of loneliness and hardship as he tries to punch above his weight to compete with the others for food, water and desirable tree space. He is in for a nasty shock when he is attacked by Alexis –for the heinous crime of being Amazon’s son.

He manages to escape Alexis’s cruel advances, but is left nursing a broken leg. Now he is left to hobble after his family, who completely ignore his piteous cries for help. His daily struggle for survival has become much more intense now that he is at the mercy of the island’s intimidating queue of predators –namely boa constrictors, birds of prey and wild dogs. However, Gizmo is a lemur of spirit, as we see him gamely leaping from tree to tree, carefully avoiding putting pressure on his injured leg. His survival depends on keeping close to the gang, but as he is continually playing catch-up, each day becomes more of an ordeal than the last. When Alexis leads the gang to a tree full of coveted orange berries, Gizmo has to make do with the unripe green fruit that all the other lemurs avoid.

At one point, Gizmo is so exhausted he is forced to rest on an open road while the others march on with considerable alacrity. He is a sitting duck for predators, but what the other Tornadoes don’t know is that they are about to bump into the Graveyards and wage a turf war –one that poor Gizmo should count his blessings he’ll avoid…

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  • Chris

    ok this has made me VERY angry, how could the other lemurs just leave Gizmo like this, i wish i didnt watch this program now its just upset me, curse them other lemurs…god bless Gizmo for trying to keep up with them with such spirit!

  • Anonymous

    How could the human beings stand by and watch Gizmo suffering without helping him?

  • Anonymous

    Well I won’t be watching again – how horrible to watch a baby animal with a broken leg struggling to keep up and dying. Is that some people’s idea of entertainment? Aren’t there places injured lemurs can be taken to for medical treatment, as it must have been inevitable it would die without some sort of intervention? What about the conservation implications?

  • Rab

    i turned to watch the footy and my team lost. but did see Gizmo only searched for him jus now to see if he made it..sadly looks like he did not. Its a shame but the laws for the film makers are they can not play god and alter things even if it looks like they should.

  • Graham

    What a horrible end to a show. If they follow an animal that long and personalise it, in a program like this, it’s usually a happy end. The whole show was based on Gizmo’s survival, they even had the ad break when he was hanging for his life. Just goes to show the greed of man. They keep us watching the whole time and then reveal that he didn’t make it. Very sad and very twisted way to show a documentary. I don’t know what kind of filmmakers can stand back and watch. I guess the ones with dollar signs on their minds…

    The animal kingdom is a cruel place, i was so angry with those other lemurs and very upset when gizmo just sat in the sun waiting to die. At least he’s given me inspiration if nothing else came from the show…

  • Lemurnidas300

    Somewhere in the Mammalian Valhalla,there is a heavily berried tree,where this brave little animal dines happily.

    Personally,Id have broken the Prime Directive and helped Gizmo.
    Bravery deserves Reward…..

  • Hanah

    I was in tears watching the plight of Gizmo last night, and was so upset by him not being helped I am still thoroughly upset this morning. I can not understand how the makers of this programme could watch a baby animal struggle to survive and know the pain he must have been in and not do a thing to help. Why were we kept to watch this little fella die in the most painful and exhausting way. I can not believe that this little chap, who showed so much spirit, was not rescued and allowed treatment. Really disgusted and truely upset.

  • Anonymous

    I am still upset this morning at Gizmo dying. I too think somebody could have intervened and helped him. I know that the program makers don’t want to break the cardinal rule but I would risk my job to help this poor little baby lemur if I was on the set. People are helping animals all the time in other places. This was really unfair and cruel to follow this little chap and do nothing for him. I am very angry at them all. I don’t think I will be watching anymore of these programs. I can’t cope with the callousness of the film crew.

  • Anonymous

    I echo all the comments here and I also cried buckets. I agree with the other posts here – the makers reallu worked to get us really attached to little Gizmo, strung the story along and then ended it just so cruelly. I don’t think I will ever be able to look at a lemur again without remembering this documentary and being sad all over again.

    I know that mother nature is cruel and this is the way of the world but I felt the documentary makers deliberatly sensationalised this and that sucks!

  • Anonymous

    The story of Gizmo – what a terribly sad tale!

    He was so brave and struggled on without help. Clearly his sprit has touched a lot of people’s hearts.

    I know film makers and naturalists are never meant to interfere with their subjects but I think it was cruel to let him die like that.

    If a conservation message or appeal could be added to this series them maybe Gizmo’s sad story could help lemus and Madagascar which is suffering some of the worst deforestation anywhere in the world.

  • Anonymous

    I felt that the makers of the program were clearly aiming to ellicit an emotional response, and in that respect they suceeded. I found the honesty of the program quite refreshing in comparison to some of the BBC wildlife documetaries where the young animals that they follow always seem to survive, despite the low statistical probability of them doing so. It’s not just in lemur societies -but in human society too- that children are sometimes beaten, abused, neglected and in some cases left to die. This is reality. It’s sad and it’s probably not what people want to watch on TV but it’s the truth.

  • Anonymous

    I am so relieved to see that other people are as upset and infuriated by this programme as I am. I really began to question the mentality of the apathetic documentary makers. The documentary makers chose to anthropomorphise their subjects – a choice which, in a professional documentary, usually results in the viewer’s pleasure but in this case the highly emotive approach only made the tragic ending more provocative and shocking, and left the viewer disgusted. The superficial commentary successfully manipulated the viewer yet seemed totally devoid of any real natural or scientific expertise. This tabloid approach to documentary making may have gained viewers but it only serves to show the complete lack of substance behind the natural science it ‘documented’. It is a fair point that nature is cruel and it wouldn’t be ‘realistic’ to intervene but at what cost? I actually wonder if this crew would sit back and watch nature treat a human so cruelly. Probably – after all they are just doing their jobs. I definitely won’t watch this programme again – I’ll get information about the natural world from a reliable source of knowledge, one whose judgement is accorded some kind of authority and not totally devoid of compassion.

  • Anonymous

    Thought you might be interested that this has been raised by an upset 11yr old boy on channel five’s website. Thought you might want to repeat some of you comments on there http://www.five.tv/viewerforum

    I was sure putting that much effort into getting viewers to connect with Gizmo meant that he would pull through in the end. The final scene of his body at the end was totally unnecessary and upsetting. I hope the film crew have some kind of conscience about what they did.

  • Laskovar

    Oh my God, like minded people. I was sooooo traumatised when Gizmo died…It destroyed me emotionally. I agree the camera crew are inhuman, why not step in, capture him & pass him on to an animal refuge? He could have then lived, helping to educate others about Lemurs and their importance. sod this ‘we can’t interfere’ stance…& the leader of the troop & Gizmos mum need a slap for being horrible, I would have been his friend…

    Gizmo died….RIP, Gizmo

  • Anonymous

    Obviously wildlife documentaries are made in order to record life in the wild, as ugly and distressing as it can often be but, I agree, how disruptive would it have been to have rescued this lemur, in order to save his life? He was no longer part of his troop, after all. I felt angry and upset too – in part, due to the ridiculous tone of the commentary – Gizmo’s ‘selfish family’ and the ‘little princess’ being carried on her mother’s back. They’re wild animals for heaven’s sake, not characters from a soap opera! Over sentamentalised and designed to inflict maximum upset to the viewer…

  • MadFerret

    Gizmo’s fate was heartbreaking. Nature can be very very cruel. I’m still very saddened by the site of poor Gizmo’s body – watching that poor little mite struggle for the last days of his life, all alone, it brings tears to my eyes. I too thought how maddening that the film crew watched but didn’t help but it was the right thing to do – humans have interferred enough with the animal kingdom. RIP Gizmo

  • Matt

    Right, just seen this episode today and was mortified to see what happened to Gizmo but you cannot have a go at the makers of the programme for not intervening. Life is horrible – especially in the wild. Too often we are shielded from the harshness of reality and seeing the plight of Gizmo made me realise that life does suck but when the chips were down that little lemur fought and fought and didn’t give up until his injury overcame him. If anything I learnt alot from seeing what happened to Gizmo and how the Lemur community interacts.
    We need to be educated and although we may not like what we see, it does happen time and time again.
    I’ll still be watching but I’ll never forget the strengths Gizmo showed when everything was set against him.

  • Matthijs

    Gizmo’s death struggle is the most shocking and upsetting thing i ever saw on television; and i really blame the makers of this documentary series for not intervening. Suppose they were doing a documentary about homeless children or something and while filming they saw one of the children being attacked by a madman, or getting lost in a sewer or something- then, would they have intervened, or, would they have let nature have its course? The point i’m trying to make here is that there is no difference between a human baby and a lemur baby. Like it or not, after all we’re nothing but mammals. So shame on you for not helping this poor little animal!

  • Angela

    Many dramas, like the suffering of Gizmo happen all over the world every day. But, Gizmo could have been rescued for 2 reasons: firstly, to do so would not have disturbed the dynamics within his group from human intereference (his troop members were well away from him) and secondly, lemurs continue to be persecuted by man so to step in and help one would have been a sort of redress. He might have recovered in an animal shelter and who knows, maybe a spin-off programme detailing “Gizmo’s Odyssey” could have followed his post-rescue and possible rehabiliation into a troop of other orphans. What nonsence about “not interfering in nature”. Man interferes in nature all the time- usually with bad consequences for animals: it’s time we as humans showed an ounce or compassion – yes – even for one small animal. It’s not like anyone would be interfering in a natural hunting scenario and unduly influencing the outcome of a predator/prey interraction. It has been a week since I saw little Gizmo’s struggle and I am still upset by the inaction of the film crew.

  • Angela

    I would like to add some more comments! The soap-opera/documentary style of following social species such as meerkats (Meerkat Manor) and lemurs in Lemur Street is a novel way of understanding the dynamics of interractions within and between such groups. Giving the animals names and having their “comments” posted on web-sites serves to anthropomorphize them. When situations such as with Gizmo happen however, then the film crew, producers, and all those involved in the programme bring the shutters down very quickly on the animal in question – now it is “just” an animal and any thought of interfering to save him from the obvious and enduring pain, hunger and exhaustion is scoffed at. Not so long ago, the idea of helping animals was scorned at by just about one and all: now we see wonderful rescue and rehabilitation centres all over the world, helping to redress some of the damage that humans have, and continue to inflict on animals. I honestly do not see what tremendous harm it would have done to have stepped in and rescued him. I honestly think that the film crew must have had hearts of stone. As others have posted on this site, I ask: what would the film crew if they were watching a child in imminent danger? Don’t get me wrong: sometimes one must stand back. I am an avid viewer of the “Big Cat Diary” series and often that shows hunting episodes. I agree in these cases that to interfere would be wrong: mother cheetahs for example, have to isolate young gazelle fawns for their cubs to practise their hunting and killing skills on: gruesome to many, but necessary if cheetahs are to survive. I don’t think that the situation with Gizmo was like that though. He was not being actively hunted (are feral dogs a “natural” part of the environment? : debatable point.). The lemurs in any case have to interract with humans on a near-daily basis anyway!! There are plenty of shots in the episodes of people going about their business around the lemurs!
    I love animals and I feed and sterilize dozens of feral cats that live in some of the most dangerous areas here, in a South African city. I do so because thay are immensely loving when shown a little kindness, and just because i don’t like to see them struggle for food.I have on occasion had to rescue some hopelessly pus-ridden and desperately sick animals and arranged for their immediate euthanasia. No tears: I am just glad that I am sometimes in the right place at the right time to help: it should have been so for Gizmo, but he had no help, just people who lost their humanity in their desire for dramatic footage. Rest in peace, brave little one. I wish I had been there for you…….

  • Ann Nichols

    Thank you! Here in the USA, Gizmo was just sitting in the lower branches of a tree with those two dogs below. I was afraid he wasn’t going to make it. I’ve seen only two episodes and Gizmo was the only lemur I cared about. I’ve seen nature shows where baby animals don’t make it, but no one named them. I don’t want to watch the show again.

    They actually showed the poor little lemur’s death? At least “Meerkat Manor” generally showed dead bodies or just narrated the little one’s fate.

    I agree — the crew could have rescued Gizmo!
    (Was he attacked by Alexis? Here we were told it his attacker was Chelsea. Also, the Tornado Troop are called the Furies.)

    Thank you again!

  • Anonymous

    The only good thing that has happened since I watched that show was reading these posts and knowing that other people were affected as deeply as I was. Thank you to all who posted. I hope Animal Planet reads this. I for one have no more trust in that organization.

  • Anonymous

    I understand the importance of not interfering with mother nature, but
    come on! how could anyone sit there and let this five month old baby
    lemur struggle to survive for so long??? The humane thing to do would of been to either take him to an animal santuray or if the damage was to severe have him put down. Even Meerkat Manor had mentioned that they stepped in so the animal would not suffer. I have only seen two episodes and at this point Gizmo has not died yet.By reading the blogs i’m assuming he must of been killed by the wild dogs, is this right?? I hope the film crew reads these blogs and realize they went to far, and what they let happen to Gizmo was cruel. I completely understand about letting nature take its course, but when a human is able to help and stop the suffering they should do so! the footage was so sad that i kept thinking there was going to be a happy ending, no way could they let this lemur die.

  • Jason

    Losing Gizmo was like losing my son …worse, in fact. My son sometimes behaves horribly, but Gizmo never did anything to hurt anyone. Had I been there, I would have done anything in my power to help him. Gizmo represented the best in all of us …and now he’s dead. I wish I were dead, too.

  • wyatt

    How could they just let him die slowly like that? It’s not like he had a skull fracture and blood was spurting from his head and he would be dead in minutes. No, instead they film him die over a three day period. If it were a child crying with a broken leg the whole damn crew would have dropped all their equipment just to help them. It truly sickens me how humans think our lives are actually “worth” more than that of animals, be it a social or spiritual reason. Life is life, plain and simple. At least animals actually contribute and help their environments thrive, unlike us humans who destroy our environment and its natural inhabitants. If you ask me, I’d say most animals have a better chance of ascending spiritually based on the fact that they are at least have clear conscious. And I don’t care for any rebuttals about “non-interference” those dogs that were chasing the furies are descendants of dogs brought by Darwin’s original ship’s crew, and the lemurs were practically living on a man made rode, even though before Darwin went to Madagascar there were no people there. So non-interference my ass.

    We should get a petition going to have the film crew of lemur island to each have one of their legs seriously fractured and then dropped of separately from one another fifty miles in the middle of the amazon, then we film it and see how long it takes them to die and we can have it in an hour long special called “Just desserts”.

    seriously though, these episodes made me question if animal planet is just all about the money. they probably are.

    There should be rules set for nature shows, like they have to intervene when the suffering of the animal is unnecessary.

    We really just need to start to see animals more as equals, like the Native Americans did. as far as I’m concerned they had the right idea how to live our lives.


    sorry, really worked up about this. even got in a huge argument with my dad and brother about it (they are for complete non-interferance. if they were really true, they’d be against nature shows {nature divided by man+film = unnatural.

    My thoughts go to all the gizmos out there, animal or otherwise (i don’t completely hate humans yet 😛 )

  • Shannon

    I watched my first episode last night and watched Gizmo die. I’m glad that I’m not alone in thinking that was cruel! Since the crew was there, they should have helped him! Taken him to get help or something. Animals die all the time in nature and no one sees but to actually film him dying over a few days??? Cruel!

  • Anonymous

    OMG, I totally agree. My sweet little Gizmo! I hate the camera crew for sitting and watching the poor animal die. The only solace I find in Gizmo’s death is that he will no longer be in pain from his leg and no longer has to deal with Amazon ever again. He is with God, and with my cat Baby, whom I know will look after him.

  • Jason

    All right, all joking aside, let’s do find a little reality. The only significant problem I have with this is the television ratings which were generated in the exploitation of this animal’s death — bad call. But the bottom line is this; everyone is as upset as they are, not because this was an animal that suffered and died, but because it was a cute animal that suffered and died. You don’t hear much of an outcry when film crews document lions weeding out the weak of a wildebeest herd. Wildebeest are not cute and cuddly, nor are they given names. Was it hard to watch? It was, actually. Was it in poor taste? Probably. Should we demand the lives of the film crew as an even exchange for what one lemur suffered? Of course not. Like it or not, there is a distinction between human beings and animals …and there should be. While it is reprehensible to torture or thoughtlessly kill them, it must be at least a little less so to document their life in the wild.

  • Anonymous

    An anonymous poster said: “I felt that the makers of the program were clearly aiming to ellicit an emotional response, and in that respect they suceeded. I found the honesty of the program quite refreshing in comparison to some of the BBC wildlife documetaries … and it’s probably not what people want to watch on TV but it’s the truth.

    Yes, nature has its cruel moments. But is it OK for a company to exploit these animals’ lives in order to sell more advertising?

  • Anonymous

    I am usually quite a thick skinned person, who often watches documentaries / animal shows of this nature- but nothing prepered me for this episode. I don’t know if it was my raging hormones- i was 8 months pregnant at the time- but my partner came home to find me in a sobbing state. He was suprised- I never cry. I thought it was awful, surely some one could have done something for him. There are plenty of wildlife hospitals that deal with wild animals all the time. Or were the ratings more important???? Surely a happier ending would keep the viewers watching?

  • michaelw

    I happened to see just one episode of Lemur Island, where little Gizmo dies after his brave attempts to follow his family. I think it was the obvious parallels with my own life that just made me cry. Good thing no one else was around to see a grown man in this state. The scene when he finally gives up and just sits to enjoy the last rays of warm sunshine on his thin body was truly dignified and … heart breaking.

    Little Gizmo is with God now, and at least has the love of the many thousands that witnessed his courage. This little Lemur seems to have affected a lot of us.

    The scripted rule that filmmakers must not interfere with nature is so out of date as to be risible. To think that the animal kingdom can exist today without interference from man… we passed that point decades ago.

    The filmmakers never intended this, but Gizmo touched on our spirituality deeply. It is about our perception of what is important about life – animal and human. At least it did for me. I chose to be vegetarian some 30 years ago … it is a very small personal comfort.

    God bless you Gizmo… you are not just another wild animal that died. Your short life was important to me. You have a special place in my heart. We have a lot to learn from you and you won’t be forgotten… I promise.


  • michaelw

    eva: Your posting was much appreciated and helped my own thoughts. I have only just seen this episode and cannot stop thinking about little Gizmo. He has touched many of us very deeply.

  • Monique

    I’ve seen 1 episode of Lemur Island last Friday and unfortunately just that of Gizmo’s fate. I’m still crying. Every time I think of Gizmo catching the last sunbeams my heart hurts and I get tears in my eyes.
    I find comfort in reading that others also were upset and disagree with the way the film crew acted. And I’m sure that there are many more people who are shocked but don’t show it or express it here. I do hope that Animal Planet and the program makers will interfere in the future. The number of animals and species is dropping so please let’s save every peace where possible.

    The reaction of Jason annoys me. He says:”Like it or not, there is a distinction between human beings and animals”. Yes there is. A human kills, abuses, mistreats and cheats his own kind and animals, let its own kind and animals starve while he enjoys his luxurious life, take habitats, hunt for fun, polute, etc. Do I have to go on? Do I have to be proud on my human fellows. I’m sorry but I prefer the animals.

    The story continues this week, but I will not watch. Well done Animal Planet!

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