Meet the nation of King Julian XIII

Travel and Environmental Journalism – September 2015

Upon entering Lemur Falls at the Cango Wildlife Ranch staff relieve you of your personal electronics allowing you to fully enjoy your encounter hands free. The guide proceeds to press on his clicker and the Ring Tailed Lemurs run up to you. The amiable guide invites you to sit and places a cup with small pieces of fruit in your hands. A female Lemur and one of her daughters are the first to approach. “She is the alpha of the group, the others have to wait until she is finished.” the guide explains. The other Lemurs hesitate in the bushes, looking at you with their brown, round eyes.

The Cango Wildlife Ranch is a zoological facility in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. They started in 1977 as a crocodile farm but in the last 30 years they transformed into a conservation project for endangered animal species. The Lemur interaction is just one of the animal encounters offered at Cango Wildlife Ranch in an effort to raise awareness and funds for their facility.

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In case you were wondering sitting provides Lemurs with platforms to pounce on, those being your head and shoulders as they eagerly crowd you anticipating the sunburst juices in your hands. They hang in your hair and lean on your nose for leverage when reaching for fruit. Their soft, small hands becoming wetter and stickier after every piece of fruit they eat. Meanwhile, you can feel their furry, fluffy tails brush along your face. The guide laughs taking countless photos as the Lemurs crawl all over you with their sticky, little fingers.

Lemurs are not endemic on the African mainland. Their home is Madagascar; an island next to the Eastern coast, which belongs to the African continent. Due to deforestation, roughly six football fields of forest are being cut down every day, according to Kevin Pikaan, the Tourist Liaison Officer. The loss of habitat leads to a decline in Lemur numbers. The Cango Wildlife Ranch helps fund the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group, an organisation which works on reforestation and education on the island.

The Lemurs sitting on your lap are not much bigger than a house cat. As you stroke their soft fur, they make quiet purring noises and you can’t help, but smile. However, your admiration of their curious antics dampers to sorrow when you realize these adorable little primates although alive and well in your hands are actually endangered in the world. 

Making the trip to visit to Cango Wildlife Ranch as part of the Travel and Environmental Journalism program is absolutely worth more than the close up encounter, buying a ticket works towards the conservation of these cute, furry, little creatures.

-Monique Van Westerhoven & Amanda Robbins

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