Coquerel's sifaka Max (Handout photo courtesy…)
An endangered lemur species native only to the island of Madagascar has grown its global population by one with the birth last month of Maximilian — the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore's newest Coquerel's sifaka.
The species (pronounced CAHK-ker-rells she-FAHK) produce babies that resemble "tiny gremlins" before their white hair begins to grow in, the zoo said. Images of "Max," as he's known, show his hair has come in — he was born March 30, though his birth was announced Wednesday — and he can now be seen on some days with his parents inside the zoo's sifaka exhibit at the Chimpanzee Forest, zoo officials said.
There are only eight zoos with accreditation to house sifaka in the country, and only 50 of the animals at those zoos, officials said. That means Max represents two percent of the U.S. sifaka population.
"We are excited by this new birth, and our continuing contribution to the Coquerel's sifaka population," said Mike McClure, the zoo's general curator, in a statement. "The staff is happy to note that the baby is healthy, and to observe that the baby and his parents have been bonding quite nicely in a quiet off exhibit area since the birth."
Max's birth was based on breeding recommendations from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' survival plan for the species, officials said.
Max's parents, Anastasia, 9, and Gratian, 11, are also parents to Otto, 2, and Nero, 15-months, who were also born at the Maryland Zoo. For now, visitors will see Max's brothers on days when Max and his parents are out of sight, officials said, but the zoo is building a new sifaka exhibit to allow visitors to see everyone in the small lemur family on a single trip.
At birth, Max came in at 101 grams — less than a quarter of a pound and normal for sifaka, zoo officials said. He's since gained weight, proving he's nursing well, officials said.
"Ana is a proven mother, however we always err on the side of caution by keeping a close eye on Mom and baby off exhibit, giving them time to bond and for us to observe his growth," said mammal collection and conservation manager Carey Ricciardone, in a statement.
Ricciardone said sifaka generally ride on their mother's stomachs for the first month of life, then transition onto their mother's backs.
"By the end of April, he will begin to sample solid food and crawl on Ana's back periodically and he should begin to venture a few feet away from her by six to eight weeks of age," she said.
Once he starts moving, he'll be a sight to see.
"Sifaka have a unique brown and white coloration and are distinguished from other lemurs by the way that they move. They maintain a very upright posture and, using only their back legs, leap through the treetops," the zoo said in its announcement of Max's birth. "They can easily leap more than 20 feet in a single bound. On the ground, they spring sideways off their back feet to cover distance."