CONSERVATIONISTS at Chester Zoo are celebrating the birth of a critically endangered Coquerel’s sifaka lemur.

The tiny new arrival was born to parents Beatrice (11) and Elliot (10) following a five-month pregnancy and weighing around 120g.

First images of the bright-eyed baby show it bonding with mum and clinging tightly to her fur as she leaps from tree to tree.


A critically endangered dancing lemur has been born at Chester Zoo. Picture: Chester Zoo.

A critically endangered dancing lemur has been born at Chester Zoo. Picture: Chester Zoo.


Primate experts at the zoo say the baby will begin to branch out and explore on its own at around three months old, which is when they will reveal if it’s male or female.

The species has been nicknamed the ‘dancing lemur’ because of the unique way that it moves. Sifakas stand perfectly upright while using their powerful legs to spring side to side along the floor and can leap more than 20ft through the treetops in a single bound.

Chester is currently the only zoo in the UK, and one of just three in Europe, to care for the Coquerel’s sifaka. New parents Beatrice and Elliot were transferred from the Duke Lemur Center in the USA in 2021 to begin a new conservation breeding programme aimed at safeguarding the primates from extinction.

Dr Nick Davis, primatologist and general manager of mammals at the zoo, said: “A new arrival into the conservation breeding programme is a huge boost for the species, especially as the little one will be joining only five other Coquerel’s sifaka living in zoos across Europe, so every addition is very special.

“The new baby was born with a thick fuzzy white coat, just like its parents, and is already wide-eyed and full of personality. Mum Beatrice is being kept very busy with her playful arrival who is feeding from her regularly and has, so far, showed great signs of development.

“Over the next few weeks the youngster will gain enough confidence to begin exploring on its own. Only then will our team be able to get a closer look and discover if it’s male or female, which is really important information as we work to safeguard the species and its future.”

In the wild the Coquerel’s sifaka population has declined by 80 per cent in the last 30 years due to widespread habitat loss across the island of Madagascar. As a result, the species is classed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Mike Jordan, director of animals and plants at Chester Zoo, added: “These unique primates are found in only one place on Earth, the northwestern forests of Madagascar. Sadly, their population is in sharp decline and their habitat has become increasingly fragmented as more than 90 per cent of the island’s forest has been wiped out to make way for agricultural farming and human activities.

“For more than a decade we’ve been working with our in-country field partners and NGO, Madagasikara Voakajy. During this time, we have helped develop a special area of protected forest, spanning more than 27,000 hectares, to safeguard the island’s unique wildlife including lemurs, frogs and reptiles.


A critically endangered dancing lemur has been born at Chester Zoo. Picture: Chester Zoo.

A critically endangered dancing lemur has been born at Chester Zoo. Picture: Chester Zoo.


“We’re hopeful that the work here at the zoo in the UK, as part of the co-ordinated efforts with other European zoos, paired with our efforts in Madagascar to protect the forests, will ensure species like the Coquerel’s sifaka can thrive for generations to come.”

In 2015 the Malagasy government established The Mangabe New Protected Area, an area of land co-managed by the zoo’s field partners and the communities that live in region - providing a safe haven for nine species of lemur and thousands of other threatened species that call the forest home.