Lemur physicals complete
March 10, 2023
Our ring-tailed lemurs have their annual physicals in February/March. It takes two days to complete the physicals since seven physicals are just too many in one day. In fact, the work to have a successful outcome starts way before the actual day of physicals.
The work and training our staff invests in relationship building, and operant conditioning with our lemurs is ongoing and necessary so the lemurs choose to self-crate without getting any tasty food rewards. We cannot feed the lemurs before they get sedated- just like people who go in for medical procedures and are going to be sedated, food is not to be eaten prior to procedures. (Click here to see a post from about 10 years ago about lemur crate training).
We’ll get photos of the lead-up process for lemur physicals next year so we can share that portion, but for today we’ll focus on the actual physicals. Each lemur is moved from their travel crate into a small “squeeze” area. This is a small cage in which one pulls forward the back wall, so the lemur is in a progressively smaller area. In here, we can more easily give them medicine injected from a syringe to put them to sleep, before moving them to the procedure table.
The picture above has a lot going on. On the left, the veterinary resident, Dr. Mumm, has the anesthesia mask on the head of the lemur, while also looking in his eyes to assess their health. To the right, a veterinary student uses the stethoscope to listen to the heartbeat and respiration. On top, the small red cell-phone looking thing is a monitor. We clip the wire probes to the lemur to get oxygen saturation, heart rate and other values.
The photo above shows four new things to focus on. First, near the lemur’s head is a small tube. This is eye lube, and is added to each eye to make sure they stay moist. The second thing to note is Dr. Mumm using her hands to palpate Dan’s entire body. Then, another veterinary student, has the clipboard and is in charge of tracking vital signs and writing everything down that is done. The final item to note, for those that can see colors, is the collar around the lemur’s neck, with some blue cable ties. Dan has blue cable ties.
Why collars, and why colored cable ties? Since I cannot wait for you to answer I will just share the why. All our lemurs wear collars that allow us to track them should they leave their habitat. We use radio telemetry, and our team actually practices lemur escape and recapture drills with the equipment. (Click here, or here to see some past posts about tracker drills). The cable ties are added to assure the collars stay on, and once we add them, we decided to give each lemur their own color. The colors allow us to more quickly identify each lemur. Misa gets yellow cable ties. The batteries on the collars have to be replaced annually, so during their physicals we take them off and replace with a new one (each lemur therefore has two collars- one on them, and one we send out for replacement batteries prior to physicals).
When we’re done, the anesthesia gets turned off (they receive just oxygen at this point), and reversal medicines are injected. As the lemur wakes, we set them back in their crate so we can monitor them as we move on to the next lemur. Below is a close up of one of the lemurs back in his crate, and then Dr. Mumm, attempting to make friends with one who is fully recovered.
Lemur physicals are an exciting time. The Animal Care Team staff has to have their A-game making sure the lemurs are crated and ready to go. We get to have Veterinary students learning for their intended career, and new residents participating in our veterinary procedures. Lots of moving parts, lots of training, and lots of learning go into lemur physicals every year.