Part of my job at the Cincinnati Zoo is to help create training programs or protocols with the keepers. Three times a week I get to visit one of my favorite species, the sifakas, and their keepers Matt and Stephanie in Jungle Trails!
When Matt, Stephanie and I work with the sifakas, they work for peanuts, literally! The sifakas are trained to keep their noses targeted on their keepers’ pointer finger. When they do, the keepers let them know that’s the correct response, and give them a peanut. This way, the trainers can have the sifakas jump and climb throughout the exhibit to work their mind and body! The sifakas love to work with their keepers.
Renaldo, our male sifaka, really likes to work with Matt! They have a wonderful trusting relationship. Matt can even ask Renaldo to hang upside down for treat, so the folks visiting our zoo get to see how strong, flexible, and amazing these primates are, up close.
Stephanie generally will work with our female, Wilhelmina, and her baby, Bobby (born on Labor Day, September 3, 2012). As a first time mother, Wilhelmina can be very particular about who she works with and has found an awesome trusting relationship with Stephanie. Wilhelmina is very smart and bossy! She will run after Renaldo and steal his peanuts if she gets the chance. To keep everything fair, it is important to have a keeper per animal while working with them.
The best part of working with the sifakas is being able to see them jump from tree to tree, effortlessly. The folks visiting the zoo can see Renaldo “flying” through the air as Matt and I call him back and forth! The jumps are incredible to see! Sifakas spend most of their time in the trees, but don’t get around in the same way that other lemurs do. Sifakas remain upright, and they leap quickly from tree to tree by jumping with their powerful hind legs, clearing distances of over 30 feet!
Make sure your visit to the zoo includes watching this amazing family grow together and take time to watch Bobby as he begins to explore his world a little more every day! That little one is going to be your favorite!