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August
Endangered primates born at HK Zoological and Botanical Gardens
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Six endangered primates - two black and white ruffed lemurs, three ring-tailed lemurs and one white-faced saki - have been born at the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens in the past few months.

Established in 1871, the gardens occupy an area of 5.6 hectares. Since 1970s the gardens have played an important role in educating the public on the conservation of rare and endangered species of plants and animals.

Senior Leisure Manager (Special Gardening) Mr Benjamin Hung said the gardens put great effort into developing captive breeding techniques. "Through education, conservation, research programmes and exhibitions, the gardens aim to give the public a better understanding of animals and to appreciate the coexistence of all animals with nature," Mr Hung said.

It is the first time that black and white ruffed lemurs have been successfully bred in Hong Kong. The two black and white ruffed lemurs were born in April, bringing the number of the lemurs at the gardens to five.

Black and white ruffed lemurs belong to the Lemuridae family. It is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Black and white ruffed lemurs are dispersed throughout the forests of Eastern Madagascar. They are characterised by the long ruffs around their necks. Their faces, tails, hands and feet are black and they have large white patches on their limbs, backs and heads.

Black and white ruffed lemurs are mostly active at dusk and rarely descend from the trees to the ground. They live in small family groups of two to five members. They scent-mark and roar to define their territories. Twin births are usual. For the first few weeks after birth, the infants are left in the nests and are later carried in their mothers' mouths. The young grow rapidly and become agile when they are four months old.

They live mainly on fruit, leaves and bark.

Three ring-tailed lemurs (triplets) were born in March. A mother usually gives birth to one infant, but twins are also common under favourable conditions. Triplets are rare.

Ring-tailed lemurs are also from the Lemuridae family. They inhabit the open-wooded terrain of Southern Madagascar.

They have dense, grey fur, pointed muzzles, large eyes, triangular ears and long tails ringed black and white. Most active during the day, they like climbing trees, but also spend much time on the ground. They live in social groups of up to 20 members. Females are dominant and responsible for territorial defence. Both sexes can secrete a scented substance to mark their territories. The infants cling to their mothers and become independent after six months.

Ring-tailed lemurs feed mainly on fruit, leaves, bark and grass.

There are now 10 ring-tailed lemurs at the gardens.

The white-faced saki was born in January and is a female.
White-faced sakis belong to the Cebidae family, which is listed under Appendix II of CITES.

White-faced sakis are confined to evergreen rainforests of the Amazon River basin. There is a striking colour difference between males and females, which is rare in primates. They are lifelong mates, live in small monogamous groups and give birth to only one infant at a time.

White-faced sakis are specialised fruit-eaters and more than 50% of their intake consists of seeds rather than the fleshy portion. The well-developed jaw muscles and canine teeth allow them to crack open even the toughest nuts.

Counting this latest addition, there are now five white-faced sakis in the gardens.

Currently 63 mammals, 79 reptiles and 410 birds from 180 different species are being kept at the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens and about 50% of the these animals are listed under CITES. In the past five years, the gardens bred 127 animals - 47 mammals and 80 birds.

Ends/Monday, August 28, 2006
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