Lemur Island - 2 newborns and their different starts to life

Lemur Island (5/10) Wednesday 4 April: 19.15–20.00

In a corner of the remote island of Madagascar lives a remarkable and unique prosimian species: the ring-tailed lemur. This ten-part series provides a lemur’s eye view of a community of these fascinating creatures as they go about their daily routine. This week, two newborn lemurs face very different starts in life, as former troop leader Electra is exiled from the group.

Winter in Madagascar brings hard times for its native ring-tailed lemurs. In the dry season there is little water and sparse food. The members of the Tornado Troop must scour the forest floor for scraps. For the females especially, these are desperate times, with extra mouths to feed.

At the heart of the Tornado Troop the once dominant leader, Electra, is about to pay a high price for her ruthless treatment of her underlings. When her subordinate Amazon fell out with Electra, the consequences for Amazon’s first child were fatal. But in a sudden, brutal reversal of fortune, Amazon has ascended to the top of the family.

Amazon is the first female in the troop to give birth this year. Her week-old baby Orinoco holds onto her body, dependent on the warmth and milk that Amazon provides. For the first weeks of their lives, lemur babies are extremely vulnerable, with only half of all babies reaching adulthood. The babies must cling tightly to their mothers, who will continue to suckle them for the first four months of life.

In addition to producing a healthy baby, Amazon has also launched a successful attack on Electra. Along with her mother, Flame, she has managed to drive Electra onto the fringes of the group and seize power for herself.

Increasingly isolated, Electra is in a precarious position. She too is pregnant, but to have any hope of raising a healthy baby she will need the support and protection of the entire family – privileges that Amazon now enjoys. As the new dominant female, Amazon will get all the help she needs, and first pickings at feeding time.

After snacking on fallen Tamarind seed pods, the troop are briefly visited by some brown lemurs, who are larger than the ring tails. The Tornadoes move on to avoid their threatening cousins, but high drama is not far away. Electra has begun labour prematurely. In moments, she has given birth to a male, Prince, on the forest floor. Separated from the troop, Electra calls out for help, only to be answered by Amazon and her cohorts. But the approaching females take advantage of Electra’s vulnerable situation and attack her once more. Electra and Prince are now outsiders from the group, and Prince’s chances of survival are slim.

The next day dawns cold, but, huddled together in the trees, the family enjoy some warmth. Electra wakes up alone, and her odd behaviour soon indicates that something tragic has occurred – Prince lies lifeless on the ground. Having been born prematurely, it seems likely that he was too weak to cling to his mother overnight.

Prince’s death has clearly affected Electra deeply. Her motherly instinct is strong and she continues to lick her son’s face. Cradling him in her arms, she cries out for help, and seems unable to decide what to do next. The Tornadoes hear her calls, but will any of them be moved to respond to their former leader?

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  • Anonymous

    Aw no – another sad storyline.

    After the terrible story of Gizmo in the second episode, I don’t think I can watch this series any more.

    I still think the film crew should have helped Gizmo.

  • Anonymous

    I think it should be realised that, like Meerkat Manor, we are able to study creatures in the wild and learn much about them but it is important that we do not directly interfere with their lives. If animals die it is tragic but should not be remedied. After all if Gizmo had been patched up, what then would be done with him? He wouldn’t be able to be allowed to return, as he would most probably be attacked again; the alternative is captivity. He was a wild animal and many deaths occur without us documenting them in the wild. If death occurs as a result of human contact humans are then responsible, if not it should be allowed to work as nature intends it. I break my heart over animal deaths, but why should we interfere with their lives, what gives us the right to stumble in and interfere with their normal everyday lives? What knock on effects would then happen, perhaps affecting them in damaging ways?

  • Anonymous

    It’s a fair point.

    But making TV programmes like these isn’t really research. It’s light entertainment made for profit.

    And humans have already interfered with animals in many ways.

    And turning up with a camera interferes further.

    It just seemed a bit unnecessary to follow a young animal with a broken leg for two days, watching it slowly die.

  • luci

    On Animal Police they save a frog’s leg as for Gizmo …they let him die. That’s just stupid. I agree with not interfering but he was not food for other animals, he wasn’t hunted down. Nobody says to jump in front of a lion when he’s hunting but taking Gizmo to an animal shelter would have been “no-mark” interfering. Camera and crew near those animals is already interfering, everything we do in our cities interferes with nature, it’s just bad or good interfering or situations when you don’t know how it will turn up. And please someone tell me what effects would the saving of Gizmo trigger ? In my opinion, You chose wrong ! And if the reason for that was the drama, you lost me.. There are enough atrocities that make us love animals, we didn’t need another one ! Peace ..

  • Larry Spurlock

    I’m with you luci ! 100 %. I’ve NEVER accepted that we as a people cannot interfere in Nature. That’s as freaking ignorant as allowing a 2 year old child to aimlessly wander onto a roadway, busy with traffic. Somebody run save that poor child. No ! We can’t interfere with Nature. Now isn’t that STUPID !
    I liked Gizmo and I’m not watching this show anymore !
    Learn to have compassion for the needy. Not some ignorant *rule about interfering in Nature !

  • Cynde

    Say what? An act or action from a human being (mammal) to intervene or help or whatever would be interfering with nature?

    Our actions are nature itself. Are we not a part of nature, as the lemur is?

    Thinking that we are in someway ‘above it all’ and observers of life is pathetic! We are life. We are nature. We are mammals. We are vulnerable. We need to have our broken leg fixed. We need to get help to get our leg fixed. I remember, I fell in the park with a broken leg. I couldn’t get up. I laid there for 30 minutes until two young girls came over and asked me if I needed help? Yes, please. They went and got their uncle to help me get up and take me to the hospital. I did not know any of these people.

    Come back to the world as we are meant to be a part of it. Step in, pick up baby Gizmo, comfort him, find some care for his leg and food for him. It’s natural to do so.

    It’s nature at it’s best.

  • Rae

    At least if Gizmo had been taken in by humans, he would have had a chance to live and not be in great pain, or been abandoned with no one who gave a damn if he lived or died. He would have been warm, painless, and safe. I know nature is cruel, but to see how casually Gizmo’s family didnt care, expecially his mother, makes me think that maybe i shouldn’t watch this show, because 4 days later, i still cry to think about what that sweet little animal went through. And with my human heart and mind, i don’t think i could have stood around and let what happened to him not even be a blimp in his family’s life or human life.

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