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A family looks into the lemur habitat from above.
Explore | Exhibit

Explore the Wild: Lemurs and Tortoises

As well as native animals, Explore the Wild hosts two endangered species from Madagascar: ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata). Watch the lemurs scale climbing structures and balancing ropes. Keep your eyes out for the tortoises as they make their way among the grass. A guest-operated zoom camera provides close-up views of these highly active, lively primates and their slower, lower habitat mates.

In Madagascar, temperatures usually stay between 50° and 90° F. On very hot, cold, or rainy days, our ring-tailed lemurs may choose to stay inside. The tortoises move indoors each winter and can be seen at the indoor viewing window.
Three ring-tailed lemurs perch on a wooden platform.

Ring-tailed lemurs

The ring-tailed lemurs roam the Museum’s outdoor prosimian playground. Best known for their prominent black and white tail, ring-tailed lemurs are social animals and can often be found grooming or eating together. You might notice our lemurs holding their tails high as they explore the exhibit. Those raised tails function as flags that help to identify and keep the lemur troops together.
Close-up of a radiated tortoise

Radiated tortoises

Because of their striking appearance, radiated tortoises are considered to be one of the most beautiful tortoises alive. This also leaves them vulnerable to smugglers of the exotic pet trade. A radiated tortoise’s pattern is unique—like a fingerprint—but they can be hard to tell apart. Each of the Museum’s tortoises has an ID number marked on its shell.

Living Together is Enrichment

Mixed species exhibits can be beneficial for animals in museum and zoo settings. Ring-tailed lemurs and radiated tortoises share a habitat in Madagascar, and they are comfortable sharing space at the Museum as well. Exposure to other species can add variety in an animal’s daily routine, offer stimulation, and help encourage problem-solving behaviors.

Ring-tailed lemur in a tree eats a leaf.

Conservation at the Museum

These lemurs and tortoises aren’t native to Durham, but many live here in human care. Southwest Madagascar is threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and climate change. This Museum is part of a worldwide effort to protect the ring-tailed lemur and radiated tortoise. Zoos and museums work together to ensure genetic diversity and support education, veterinary care, and field research for these rare animals.

Closeup of a radiated tortoise.