Park News

Cotswold Wildlife Park celebrates its 70th Lemur breeding success in time for ‘Lemur Week’

May 2024

To highlight the plight of the world’s most endangered Lemurs, from 25 May – 2 June 2024, Cotswold Wildlife Park hosts its annual conservation event – ‘Lemur Week’. Its aim is to raise awareness and funds to help save the world’s most endangered Lemurs in their native homeland of Madagascar.

Lemur twins with mum

Photo credit: Philip Joyce

Just ahead of ‘Lemur Week’, the Primate team are thrilled to announce two new additions to its ever-growing Lemur troop – the birth of Ring-tailed Lemur twins (one pictured above with mum Hira). These new arrivals bring the total number of Lemur breeding successes in the Park’s walk-through Lemur exhibit, Madagascar, to an impressive 70 since it officially opened in 2008. As part of ‘Lemur Week’, visitors will have the chance to name the new Ring-tailed Lemur twins, as well as take part in a variety of Lemur-themed activities and learn more about these charismatic primates.


Lemur Twins with mum

Photo credit: Primate Keeper Charlotte at Cotswold Wildlife Park

The playful siblings were sired by breeding male Bernard who arrived at the collection in May 2021. He immediately bonded with dominant female Hira. Both are part of a European Breeding Programme (EEP). Females are only sexually receptive for just one or two days a year so the window of opportunity for males to father offspring is small. After a gestation period of approximately 134 days, Hira gave birth to twins – one female and one male. Section Head of Primates, Small Mammals and Birds, Natalie Horner, adds: “Hira’s latest arrivals are her 18th and 19th youngsters within her impressive reproductive history here at the Park – an amazing achievement for this experienced and attentive mother. If we look at our Lemur births at the Park over the years, this year our total has come to 70 Lemur births across several species. This is an incredible achievement and is testament to the dedication of our keepers and the Park’s commitment to the European Breeding Programme (EEP)”. The youngsters can be seen exploring the large open-air Lemur exhibit Madagascar – home to 33 Lemurs and birds native to the island of Madagascar.

One of the Lemur twins with mum

Photo credit: Brian Lilly

Ring-tailed Lemurs (Lemur catta) are instantly recognisable by their long tails of alternating bands of black and white rings which they hold almost completely vertically as they move. Scent is incredibly important to Ring-tailed Lemurs. Males use scent glands to mark territories and often engage in “stink-fighting” displays to deter other males. They use both wrists and branchial glands to mark their tails, which they then wave at another male during “stink fights”. In 2020, in the first study of its kind, researchers† discovered that this scent also has an entirely different purpose – it is used for “stink-flirting”. Outside of the breeding season, the male Lemurs’ wrist secretions are bitter and leathery and mainly used to warn off potential males. However, when it’s time to mate, researchers discovered that a trio of chemicals were present in the males’ secretions which appeared to pique females’ interest. Chemical analysis revealed that the scent turns from bitter to sweet. Only when all three chemicals were present, females showed additional interest. The males’ production of this chemical concoction was also tied to their testosterone levels. A pheromone expert at Oxford University found that the results of the study might represent the first recorded evidence of primate pheromones.

Ring-tailed Lemur in Madagascar exhibit

Photo credit: Simon Needham

In recent years, Cotswold Wildlife Park has achieved breeding success with two incredibly rare Lemur species – Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) and Crowned Sifaka (Propithecus coronatus). Both are classified as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2017 Cotswold Wildlife Park made history when it became the first zoological collection in Great Britain to successfully breed Crowned Sifaka. The Park is also the only zoological collection in the world to have bred Greater Bamboo Lemurs in the last twelve months. In fact, this is the fourth consecutive year that the Primate team has managed to breed this threatened species. With only 32 animals in captivity worldwide, every breeding success of this rare primate is very important. Jamie Craig, General Manager of Cotswold Wildlife Park, said: “Lemur species in Madagascar are under tremendous pressure from habitat destruction and the rapidly rising human population. It is vital that we raise awareness for this unique group of primates before it is too late. At Cotswold Wildlife Park, we are committed to conserving this species and we fund an extremely important site in Madagascar, as well as participating in several other conservation projects with the Cotswold Wildlife Park Conservation Trust – most notable for the Crowned Sifaka and Greater Bamboo Lemur. We are extremely privileged to keep both of these species at the Park – they are extremely rare in captivity and they are fantastic ambassadors for our fundraising efforts”. He added: “The work of the project Helpsimus has directly led to the Greater Bamboo Lemur being removed from the World’s 25 Most Endangered Primate list – a real achievement. Our work with Sifaka conservation has led to several new sites being identified and protected”.

Jamie Craig on a research trip to Madagascar

Protecting wildlife beyond the Park

Cotswold Wildlife Park funds two major Lemur conservation projects in Madagascar: Impact Madagascar ( and Helpsimus ( Impact Madagascar focuses on the conservation of Crowned Sifaka and works with the people of Madagascar to provide solutions for the problems of deforestation, pollution and poverty. Helpsimus is committed to the conservation of Greater Bamboo Lemurs and protecting Madagascar’s biodiversity in cooperation with local communities. In February 2024 Helpsimus reported that the population of Greater Bamboo Lemurs protected by the project has almost tripled in 10 years – an exceptional result considering this species was on the brink of extinction some 15 years ago. In 2022, following a visit to the Park, Simon Cowell and Lauren Silverman generously donated to the Cotswold Wildlife Park Conservation Trust. Their donation helped fund a new research centre for Helpsimus. All funds raised during ‘Lemur Week’ will go directly towards Lemur conservation.

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens