A Story of a White Ring-tailed Lemur "Sapphire" by Adrian Warren.....Page 2 of 4
JEWEL IN THE CROWD
and Photographed by ADRIAN WARREN
We looked forward to following young Sapphire's progress over the coming months as he learned these crucial skills. But for now, there were other things to think about, in the shape of two late arrivals to the troop -a pair of twins, one of each sex. Compared to Sapphire, they were unbelievably tiny, as twins tend to be. Partly because of their size, and partly because they were born late, to a subordinate mother, we knew they had little hope of both surviving.
Considering her position in the female hierarchy, the twins' mother was surprisingly calm and conscientious, often seeking out a quiet spot some distance away from her companions where she could give her youngsters her full attention. We knew she would have a tough time providing enough milk for two hungry mouths in the coming weeks. Everything was parched dry, the trees were shedding their leaves, and though there was plenty of food to be had in the shape of tamarind fruit, there was little or no moisture. It was as if the whole forest was holding its breath, waiting for the first drops of much-needed rain.
Life isn't easy for little ring-tails at the best of times. About half of all infants die in their first year, many from injuries, some as a result of falls from high branches. At birth, they are almost completely helpless, though they can use their tiny hands and feet to grasp their mothers' fur in a vice-like grip while being carried at speed through the treetops. At first, they are carried beneath the belly -within easy reach of a nipple. As they grow, they switch to travelling on their mothers' backs. From this vantage point they can observe how their mothers are treated by other troop members.
As the weeks passed,
Sapphire grew steadily. He became a confident youngster, forming play
groups with other infants of his own age. He was adventurous and inquisitive,
wandering away from his mother to clamber along branches and make contact
with other troop members -typical behaviour for a young male ring-tail.
Ring-tails are completely at home in the treetops, the bare upper branches of the tamarind made an ideal arena for a morning assembly. Here the lemurs would climb to their favourite perches to bask in the first warming rays of sunshine. It was a time to be with friends, to groom, to play or to tend to the needs of infants. One of the males would climb to a perch on one of the highest branches to sing, sending a message far across the forest proclaiming the troop'sownership of this treasured tree