A ring-tailed lemur is difficult to miss with its distinctive markings.
Sanibel, Florida (News-Press) -- When the first visitor reported a couple of ring-tailed lemurs
crossing the road near Blind Pass last month, it was tempting for
officials to shrug it off.
After all, with
their characteristic striped tails and humpty-backed walk, it might be
easy for a Sanibel island newbie to confuse a pair of fast-moving skinny
raccoons with the primates, which are native to the island of
Madagascar, off Africa's east coast.
first call was dismissed as not credible," says Holly Milbrandt, the
city's environmental biologist - in fact, so unlikely as to be "sort of
second sighting was also pretty hard to believe. Again, a visitor had
spotted a pair of animals -"they called them ring-tailed monkeys"
Milbrandt says - headed across Tarpon Bay Road toward the Bailey Tract.
the third lemur report was harder to brush off. It came from city
employee Ken Kelly, a legislative assistant who likes to visit the
captive ring-tailed lemurs at Fort Myers' Pet Kingdom.
me completely off guard," he says. "It was around 5:15, and I was
leaving work for the day and I heard all this rattling in the bushes.
When I looked, I saw one on the ground and one sitting on this tiny
bridge near the parking lot. I was just about 10 feet away so I got a
good look at them - they were a little bigger than the ones in Pet
Kingdom - before they took off. I had a bunch of stuff in my hand, so I
couldn't get to my phone in time to take a picture."
it does turn out lemurs are roaming Sanibel, the city will work with
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to decide what to
do, Milbrandt says - probably catch and move them. She thinks it's most
likely that someone let them go on the island or they're escaped pets,
though none have been reported missing.
to their fuzzy coats, big golden eyes and black button noses (remember
King Julian in "Madagascar"?) ring-tailed lemurs easily win human
hearts. They star in zoos and preserves around the world and in
Southwest Florida, live at the Naples Zoo, North Fort Myers' Shell
Factory and Sanibel's Periwinkle Park Campground, - and yes, all of the
park's lemurs are accounted for.
thing I did when I heard was I went right down and made a quick count
to make sure everyone was there," says Dick Muench, the park's owner.
They were indeed, he says, and since then, Muench has been on the
look-out for the at-large pair. Because the lemurs' piercing cries carry
up to a quarter of a mile away, it's possible the at-large pair might
hear them and pay the captives a call.
rounded fingernails instead of claws and fused lower teeth, Milbrandt
doubts the lemurs pose a major threat to humans, "though we do want the
public to be safe."
they've escaped from somewhere, they're probably more scared than we
are," she says. "We just want to be sure the animals are safe. It
doesn't make sense to just let them fend for themselves."