By Cara Sulieman
A PAIR of lemurs have been trimming down for summer thanks to a little help from their keepers at Edinburgh Zoo.
Bobby and Noemie were piling on the pounds as they lazed around waiting for their next meal.
But after nine months of low fat food and more exercise, they have shed a kilo between them and are closing in on their target weight.
Extra weight would mean the pair being less likely to breed and, as they are an endangered species, it is important they produce offspring.
So to help them on their way, zoo bosses introduced new feeders into the Sclater’s lemur’s enclosure that dispense smaller amounts of food at different times of the day.
The uncertainty of when their next meal is coming means that the mammals are constantly checking the feeders for vegetables.
Keepers have also swapped the fatty fruit that the pair were scoffing for a lower fat vegetable based diet.
Lorna Hughes, Head Keeper for Primates at Edinburgh Zoo explained why they had changed their diet.
She said: “In the wild, lemurs feed on seasonally available wild fruit which is naturally lower in energy than cultivated fruit which is often fed to them by zoos all year round.
“So we have now introduced a new diet that focuses on low calorie healthy alternatives and have moved from a fruit to a more vegetable-based menu.
“The results have been really positive but we decided we needed to look at additional options to maximise the animals’ weight loss.”
Noemie has shed three quarters of a kilo and now weighs 2.87 kilos, just 290 grams off the target weight of 2.6 kilos.
But Bobby is struggling to shift the weight and has shed just 300 grams now weighing in at a whopping 3.1 kilos.
Keepers are now deciding whether or not to keep the feeders in the enclosure for longer to help the duo lose the extra weight.
Lorna added: “The second phase of the programme was designed to complement the diet changes by providing ways to stimulate the animals and encourage greater activity levels.
“Just as with humans on a diet, watching what you eat combined with increased exercise will result in a higher weight loss.
“In the wild, lemurs have a 24-hour activity cycle and would eat little and often so by using the feeders we also were able to try this out by giving five smaller feeds instead of three larger ones over a 24-hour period.”
Brendan Duggan, a trainee researcher studying the MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare at Edinburgh University, helped the zoo design the purpose-built feeders that were put in the enclosure at the end of June.
Brendan said: “In the wild lemurs will spend 32 per cent of their day foraging and feeding as opposed to 14 per cent in captivity, so it was important that we made these otherwise laid-back lemurs work for their food.
“Our results showed that once the feeders were introduced the time these lemurs spent resting decreased.
“The unpredictable nature of the feeding regimes meant that instead of waiting for the sound of dinner approaching with the turn of a keeper’s key, they were constantly checking the feeders never knowing when or where they might find food being dispensed.
“As the feeders also keep dispensing food, the novelty never seemed to wear off.”