“Roughly 30,000 people used to come to the Duke Lemur Center every year and now there's nobody. The animals really don't care, and we love that they don't care.”
“Roughly 30,000 people used to come to the Duke Lemur Center every year and now there's nobody. The animals really don't care, and we love that they don't care. The animals are doing just fine. They're doing far better than all of us, I would say. Seeing people is a good enrichment activity for them, but then also sometimes I’m sure it’s a little overwhelming. As much as we would like to say that they miss people terribly and wish they could come back, that's all for us.
Ever since the beginning of COVID, it has been a huge concern of ours to make sure the lemurs, which are primates like us, stay safe. We know that macaques can get it, so we are doing everything in our power to make sure the lemurs are protected.
On March 12 or so, a radio message was sent out to everyone in the Center saying everybody must be wearing a mask. I was just about to give a tour. And I was like, ‘Alright, we're gonna put on these masks.’ That was the longest tour I've ever given in my life because I knew we were canceling the rest of the month, and then who knows what would happen. I told them, ‘I don't know the next time I'm going to do this, so you're going to hear everything I possibly know about lemurs over the next two hours.’
Us educators are very much missing people, missing having that community, that connection. We switched gears really quickly and became animal technician assistants, a position that's normally filled by volunteers. So now I come in at 6:30 in the morning, get the lemur’s breakfasts put together, and then help the animal keepers throughout the day with whatever they need to do.
On that first day, though, I think I shocked the technicians. We are all sitting at lunch and I said, ‘You guys, I think I'm afraid of lemurs.’ I had never really been in a room with the lemurs. As an educator, I stay on my side of the fence and talk to people. The technicians looked at me and just stayed dead silent. It’s that I’m afraid the lemurs will try to get out. There are multiple doors so it's not actually a concern, but it would be really embarrassing to have to radio the technicians and say that a lemur escaped. Over the last few months though, I think we’ve reached an understanding."
-- Anna, Duke Lemur Center (September 2020).