Otto's big debut

Maryland Zoo's newest addition unveiled Wednesday

  • A rare male Coquerel’s sifaka was born at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore on Feb. 15.
A rare male Coquerel’s sifaka was born at the Maryland… (Handout )
April 13, 2011|By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun

Cue the oohs and ahhs. Otto is ready for his debut.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore unveiled its newest addition — a male Coquerel's sifaka — to the public Wednesday.

"People should be very proud to come to their zoo and see these," said Meredith Wagoner, the zoo's mammal collection and conservation manager. "It is very rare that they will be able to … see these."

The addition of Otto is a "highly significant birth for the sifaka population in North America," according to Mike McClure, general curator for the zoo. Coquerel's sifaka are lemurs and native to Madagascar, an island off the eastern coast of Africa. Known for their brown-and-white colors, the species is distinguished from other lemurs by the way it moves. The animals stand upright and can leap more than 20 feet through the treetops. On the ground, they jump sideways off their back feet to move. There are eight accredited zoos that house 50 Coquerel's sifaka in the U.S.

Otto was born Feb. 15 to first-time parents Anastasia, 7, and Gratian, 8. He weighed 100 grams — the equivalent of a deck of cards — when he was born. In less than a month, he's grown to just under 200 grams and extends to about 10 inches tall. Although keepers at the zoo named him, Otto's name keeps with the theme of Holy Roman Empire names suggested by the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, N.C., which owns the parents and oversees breeding.

Visitors will be able to see the family in the zoo's sifaka exhibit inside the Chimpanzee Forest. But catching a glimpse of the youngster might prove difficult. The animals typically reside in trees and spend little time on the ground. In addition, Otto mainly clings to his mother's belly and blends in with her fur, according to Wagoner. Otto started "backpacking" — riding on his mother's back — this past week. He will be easier to spot as he grows, Wagoner added.

"Folks will still have to look high in the trees, but it's worth the effort to catch a glimpse of this remarkable little guy," Wagoner said.

Otto is developing at a normal rate. He recently incorporated leafy greens to his nursing diet. He has also started grooming with his father. In another six weeks, Otto is expected to be moving around like his parents.

"It's going to be very exciting to watch him move through his periods of development," Wagoner said.

Otto's mother, Anastasia, recovered from childbirth within two days. Both parents are back to their normal routine, according to Wagoner, who said that there are plans to breed the couple again.

"They are fantastic parents, and we would like more children in the future," Wagoner said.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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