Meet Maky, the new face of the Duke Lemur Center. After nearly 20 years of valuable mascot service from a venerable sifaka outfit, the ring-tailed lemur, recently dubbed Maky by an online poll, has taken over mascotly duties. (Maky is the word for ring-tailed lemur in Malagasy, the language of Madagascar, which is the lemur’s native land.) We sat down with Maky to talk about romance, the meaning of life, and being the new kid on the block.
DM: Maky, you may have heard, but this is the Blue Devil’s territory. How have you been getting on with your diabolical counterpart?
Maky: You know, it’s been really great so far. Even though everyone was worried that the latest incarnation of the Blue Devil would be too aggressive, he’s been super welcoming. It helps that we’ve got so much ground to cover, too – Cameron and Wally Wade are just a fraction compared to the 80 acres of stomping ground I have over in Duke Forest. Besides, lemurs are extremely social mammals. I get along with just about everyone.
DM: What about your legendary stink bombs?
Maky: You mean the stink fights? Eh, that’s mostly during mating season. I hear the fraternities around here employ similar methods…
DM: Too true, Maky, too true!
Maky: Actually while we’re on the subject, I should tell you that we’ve got a pretty neat exchange program going with some other institutions. Obviously Duke’s Lemur Center has the largest lemur population outside of Madagascar, but sometimes we get a little lonely.
DM: What do you mean?
Maky: Well, to encourage a healthy and diverse lemur population, the researchers over at the Center trade animals with other institutions through a program called the Species Survival Plan (SSP). We like to think of it as Lemur match.com.
DM: Sounds pretty great.
Maky: Yeah. It’s really important, actually. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently classified lemurs as the most endangered mammal on the planet. It’s very sad.
DM: Oh wow, I had no idea. How is the Duke Lemur Center helping on that front?
Maky: Well lately, the Center has been able to bring my buddy, the mouse lemur, up to a sustainable level to join the SSP program. We’re the only center in North America conserving the species. Big ups to all my mouse lemurs out there!
DM: No doubt they appreciate the love. So let’s talk a little bit about your talents. I hear you and your fellow furry friends have a bit of an artistic flair!
Maky: Oh yeah, we’re totally into art therapy these days. Back in April, the Center piloted a “Paint with the Lemurs” tour and it’s been just awesome. The Center is required by law to keep us active - physically and mentally - since we are primates and all. And so we’ve started these painting sessions for personal enrichment.
DM: How does it work?
Maky: Well, mostly it’s a lot of hand prints and foot prints – although I should mention that our feet are a lot more dexterous than yours! We get some tail swipes in there, too. It’s not a Van Gogh, but each one is unique. Visitors get to watch us paint and can take home our paintings after.
DM: What do you like about painting?
Maky: It’s just so much fun. When was the last time you played in paint? It smells so great, and feels awesome to squish between your toes. Plus, we get craisins at the end. Craisins! Oh man, they are the best.
DM: Sounds like quite the life. Do you get outside much?
Maky: Definitely. The Center has been renovated heavily in the past few years and it’s our little slice of paradise (outside of Madagascar, of course). There are eight enclosures in Duke Forest where we can range freely, the largest being thirteen acres, which is pretty huge – we can keep our families together and play with different species. The chain link cages are gone, and now we’ve got heated and air conditioned buildings with doors and windows that let us come in and out as we please, as long as it’s over 42 degrees. We’ve got these little “porches” too, so visitors can almost always catch us hanging around.
DM: Outstanding. So where can we spot you next? We’d love to find out more about the Lemur Center and your next public appearance.
Maky: Sure thing. I’ll be at the Duke Pumpkin Fun Run on October 13 – a 2.9 mile walk or run around the Washington Duke grounds. I’ll be around with some folks from the Center – I’m the one with the big rings on my tail!
DM: Awesome. Thanks so much for your time Maky.
Maky: My pleasure. Go Duke!