Of course we don’t really send Zia, our 27-year-old black-and-white ruffed lemur, to the beauty parlor, but we do brush her fur on a regular basis! As a geriatric animal living alone, Zia needs extra attention, enrichment and stimulation and this is just one way we provide it to her.
As a primate, Zia is used to living in a social group. Group living provides mutual grooming, as well as other important social needs. Since Spike, Zia’s son, died last year due to old age-related complications, she has been living alone. We then had to decide how best to meet her needs in her new situation. We did consider the possibility of introducing another lemur into her exhibit, but it was decided because of her advanced age, doing so would be too stressful. So, we had to come up with other ideas.
One of the first things we did was send a request to our management team for “free contact.” This meant we would be able to go into Zia’s home with her for regular grooming sessions. This is not something normally done, but after serious consideration, it was agreed Zia’s health needs outweighed other concerns. Several different keepers have participated in these grooming sessions and Zia loves it! The photo above shows Zia sitting on her “slide” while Janet Dray, one of our wonderful volunteers, grooms her.
Grooming is just one way we provide the “extras” that Zia needs. Her slide is an example of another way we do this. As she is getting older, the slide allows Zia to switch from one area to another more easily.
The photo to the right shows Zia in her fleece-lined cargo net, made especially for her. She has several of these we can interchange and place throughout her exhibit space.
Zia’s keepers stop by constantly during the day to talk with her and give her special treats. You can see me in the last photo giving Zia one of her favorites, dried pineapple!
These are just some of the ways we take extra special care of our little Zia. We are always thinking up new ways to enhance her life and the care we provide her, but we are not sure who likes these special sessions more — Zia or her keepers!
– Linda Velasquez, zoo keeper