Lemur Island - Drought

Wednesday 25 April

lemur island (8/10) 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 these fascinating creatures as they go about their daily routine. This week, the Graveyard Gang and the Tornado Troop are struggling to survive during the worst drought in recent years, and Electra’s attempt to join the Graveyard Gang is foiled when the troops clash over territory.

Late winter finds Madagascar suffering one of its worst droughts in decades. With temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celsius, the landscape is parched and the rivers are drying up. In this baking environment resources are scarce and life as a ring tailed lemur is harder than ever. Resting in the shade, the malnourished Graveyard Gang have had to survive on a dismal diet of leaves.

Today, however, the gang have encountered a tree by the edge of the road, laden with tasty buds. The food is a welcome relief to the troop, especially for the two females, Liberty and Emily, who have three-week-old babies to look after. But the tribe soon have competition for the tree when the ring tails’ close cousins, the sifaka lemurs, show up. Although the ghostly sifakas rarely fight, a good food source during hard times proves difficult to resist. Feisty young Milton is called upon to stand up to the interlopers. He stops an invading sifaka in his tracks and sends him bounding away.

The Graveyards’ next stop is a juicy clump of cacti. Dominant female Crystal gets all the best pickings. But while she is occupied feeding, fellow lemur Sophie has nipped in and kidnapped Crystal’s baby, Jasmine. Childless Sophie is longing for a baby of her own, but she is playing a dangerous game, as Crystal did not ask for a babysitter. Eventually Jasmine’s calls alert Crystal, and she returns to collect her.

Not far away, the Tornado Troop are gradually encroaching on the Graveyards’ territory in search of water. Tagging along behind them is the troop’s ousted former leader, Electra. Electra’s fall from grace has been disastrous. Not only has she lost her child, she has been exiled to poorer feeding areas. Her only hope now is to join another troop, and she has her eye on the Graveyard Gang.

After some days alone in the jungle, Electra finally makes a cautious approach. The Graveyards are uninterested in her presence, but seeing an opportunity, Electra makes a bold move towards lone female Sophie. The Graveyard girl appears to tolerate Electra’s presence and the rest of the gang don’t bat an eyelid. But when the troop moves on, Electra’s new friend Sophie goes with them. For now, Electra must bide her time.

A short time later, the inevitable happens. The Graveyard Gang discover the Tornado Troop in their territory and the two groups manoeuvre into position for a fight. Females on both sides have small babies to look after, so they move away carefully to protect their young. The remaining lemurs posture and pout, but this face-off is more about bravado than fisticuffs. The confrontation has alarmed Electra, however, and she has moved away from the action. Without a family to back her up, she must be extra careful to avoid conflicts.

The Tornadoes move on to search for a better foraging area. Building clouds and flowering trees are tell-tale signs that the wet season is approaching, but for the time being, it is clear that the Graveyard Gang and the Tornado Troop must maintain their strength in numbers and support each other if they are to live to see it. For solitary Electra, however, there is not even this comfort.

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