- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2001

A ragtag gang of lazy, self-indulgent lemurs is trying to take the spotlight away from the ever-popular pandas as the hottest new exhibit at the National Zoo.
Eight ring-tailed lemurs and two red-fronted brown lemurs leapt into the hearts of children and adults yesterday during "Lemur Day 2001." The scampering bushy-tailed group met the public for the first time on its new turf at Lemur Island, an outdoor exhibition with a variety of vegetation and rocks and even a rushing waterfall.
The Friends of the National Zoo sponsored the daylong event to celebrate the opening of the exhibition with a variety of educational and fun games for the family. Visitors might have come to the zoo to be entertained, but the lemurs could have cared less; their pleasure came first. So, the first thing the creatures did was sun themselves and get acquainted with their new home.
"Lemurs, lemurs, lemurs," children shrieked.
The animals, whose ancestry can be traced back 50 million years, come from Madagascar, 250 miles off the east coast of Africa. They were given to the National Zoo by Duke University's Primate Center in Durham, N.C.
The children knew more about the lemurs than some adults, thanks to a PBS television show called "Zoboomafoo." The series, which debuted in 1999, was designed to teach children about animals. It's hosted by a lovable lemur puppet affectionately called "Zoboo."
Jack Gaffney, 6, knows the show well. He got a kick out of seeing the lemurs do their thing. He imitated some of their antics during the Lemur Olympics, where children learned facts about the animals and had plenty of fun in the process.
"I just like the way they look. They look cute," Jack said. His friend, Josie Mott, 6, nodded in agreement. Josie sunbathed on a plastic mat in front of a sun lamp for a while like the lemurs before another lemur activity grabbed her attention.
Catherine Smith, a volunteer at the zoo who usually works with the great apes, was stationed at the "Lounging Lemurs" area, directly across from the live exhibit. Her station showed pictures of the lemurs lounging in the sun.
"The lemurs need to thermal regulate their bodies, and it saves them energy by getting direct sunlight," she said.
Aron Lee, 10, wasn't as impressed by the lemurs sunning themselves. He was more fascinated by their long tails, which they use to balance themselves, and how far their strong hind legs allow them to jump. Of course, Aron, a fifth-grader at Randle Highlands Elementary School in Southeast, watches "Zoboomafoo" during the week.
"This is my first time seeing the lemurs in person. They're so exciting," he said smiling broadly.

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