I woke up a little bit jealous of Wendy. She told me yesterday that a baby lemur had jumped right into her lap. It was Triangle's baby, a precocious extrovert. Triangle, named for her high-peaked white brow, is the troop's alpha animal; her infant is fearless. The troop was taking a siesta on the forest floor of the Berenty reserve. The hot afternoon sun filtered down through layers of emerald tamarind leaves (a cliché, but an unavoidable one: Crataeva new leaves are chartreuse, Celtis leaves are viridian, but tamarind leaves against the sun really do glow like emeralds). Triangle and Square-Tail dozed with their black and white ringed tails flung over their shoulders like feather boas. Infants bounced down from their mothers' backs to play on the leaf-litter. Month-old ringtails look like miniature adults: the same black and white clown make-up and soft grey fur. You might expect their stubby little tails to be fluffy nothings, but they are striped as formally as a zebra crossing. They are only the size of two-week-old kittens. When a kitten would just be finding its feet, ringtail infants play at hop-and-pop like children's toys with springs in their tummies. The hops usually carry them onto another lemur, which can make it hard for the adults to get any sleep. When Triangle's baby jumped into her lap, Wendy, a student from Kansas newly arrived in Madagascar, was taking earnest notes on her clipboard. To the infant, she was just another troop-mate.
LRB 2 January 2003 | PDF Download