A pair of white-belted ruffed lemurs – a species critically endangered in the wild – have arrived at Chester Zoo in a bid to help save them from extinction.
The playful pair, named Andry and Loky, arrived at Chester after they were carefully matched up by conservationists.
The lemurs, which can only be found on the island of Madagascar, are one of the world’s rarest primates and their numbers have seen a sharp decline in recent years.
Habitat destruction in the form of agriculture, logging, mining and hunting pressures have seen the population of lemurs fall by more than 80% in the last 21 years.
As a result, the lemurs are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.
Watch the critically endangered lemurs here:
Assistant curator of mammals and primatology expert at the zoo Dr Nick Davis said: “Andry and Loky have settled in really well with their playful neighbours, a group of ring-tailed lemurs. They both have bold personalities and are getting along famously; they can often be seen leaping through trees and vocalising to one another.
“These stunning animals have undergone a sharp decline in the wild, with their numbers hitting rock bottom. We’ve taken the decision to play a vital role in ensuring their continued survival, in case the worst should happen – extinction in the wild.
“All is not lost though, we have been working with project partners Madagasikara Voakajy in Madagascar, helping to engage with local communities, persuading them that the forests and the animals that live there are worth protecting. It’s certainly a long process, but looking ahead, it will shape the future of the island for generations.”
Madagascar is an island of great diversity – from rich, lush rainforest to the dry, arid forest and coastal beaches.
The African nation is home to a more diverse range of animal species than any other island on Earth.
Conservationists at the zoo are working to protect the forests which are home to thousands of unique species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, other than on the island.
In a bid to enthral visitors with the wonders of the island, the zoo has also opened the UK’s first Madagascan themed play zone for families.
Visitors of all ages can jump, crawl and climb through the incredible habitats of the world’s most diverse island.
The huge new area, named PLAY!, incorporates grassed areas, forests, a dry river bed and a beach to reflect the various landscapes across the huge African nation – which is home to a more diverse range of animal species than any other island on Earth and a hotspot for the zoo’s expert conservationists.