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WEEK TWELVE - Lemur Profiles: Picnic Bluff

March 30, 2017

     Being a homeowner has never been on my bucket list. I've had a serious case of wanderlust ever since I can remember and a house seems like an albatross to me. However, one thing I do know about real estate is that it's all about location, location, location. Homes on the lake or near the beach almost always come with a high price tag. Want to live in Manhattan? That costs a pretty penny too. When it comes to locations on the island, I prefer to be where I can see the sea. Our intern house is a nice place, but it's on the mainland side of the island, as is the rest of the compound. It's a good spot for sunsets and dolphin watching, but there's no surf at all. Location is also how the free-ranging troops of lemurs are named. Even though they are free to roam anywhere, they each have their territories. East Road troop is at East Road, Yankee Bridge troop is at Yankee Bridge Road, Windmill troop is near the old windmill, Engineers used to be at Engineers Road (now, they hang out at the compound), and Picnic Bluff has their territory at Picnic Bluff. 


     It's that last group who have the best location. For the most part, they choose their own areas to live in. We do have enclosures and feeding platforms set up at each spot, which encourages them to stick around and gives them a place to go when temperatures drop. They're all on the northern portion of the island; nobody travels south of the compound. Picnic Bluff is on the northeastern side, up on top of a small cliff that overlooks the Atlantic. It's named so for the weathered picnic table that sits near the edge, where the land drops suddenly. Whenever I feed this group, I can't resist staring out at the water for a few moments. At times when the weather is rough, the sounds of crashing waves can be heard through the trees. If the lemur troop isn't at their feeding place when I pull up in the truck, they can often be found a few meters away, sunning themselves and pretending to be buddhas with fancy tails. 


     Picnic Bluff is our smallest troop; only four lemurs in total. All four can be seen in the photo up top (investigating a bribe I may or may not have offered in exchange for a photo opp). Each group of free-rangers on the island - save one - has only one male. In Madagascar, there would likely be several males in a troop, each having his own rank among the guys. In lemur society, the ladies rule. Being matriarchal, the top female is in charge of everyone, followed by her daughters, then the lowest ranking girl, followed by the boys at the bottom. Ronnie (seen here with his tongue sticking out) is the male at Picnic Bluff. In the lemur literature that came in my welcome-to-the-island packet, I kept running across the term "stink fight," which describes how male lemurs chase off the other male lemurs. I highly recommend watching the video at that last link, but stink fighting basically consists of a boy lemur using the scent glands on his wrists to get his tail nice and stinky. Then, he wafts it in the direction of his opponent. Ronnie was the first lemur on St. Catherines who demonstrated this to me.


     Males often get kicked out of troops and they go off to try and join another. This lemur behavior is how a troop gets genetic diversity. If the guys always stuck around, the troop would quickly become inbred. Ronnie here has fathered at least seven of our lemurs, three of which are still around and live in our big enclosed building. 


     At the top of the list of lemurs not to mess with at Picnic Bluff is Pleiades (blue collar). She does seem to be the one in charge, though by rights I think it should be Frida (pink collar). She's certainly the one that gets to eat more than the other three. When we make our daily meal delivery, there's a bowl for each lemur and they have equal amounts of food, weighed and measured. But, Pleiades is the one who chases the others off so that she can eat all of the grapes herself (or blueberries, or bananas). I favor Frida for the lead role because she's the mother of Rue (bottom photo). However, she's not quite as aggressive, at least when it comes to food. Maybe living oceanside has given Frida a more meditative attitude. I certainly would be calmer if I could hear the surf right outside of my bedroom. I can't complain much though, considering the fact that I've spent the last few days getting golden brown on South Beach. Honestly, there's no place on St. Cats that can be called a bad location (unless you count the dump). 


























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