Friday, July 18, 2014

Leaping Into Love With Lemurs

Many people ask me, Melissa what it is about lemurs that intrigue you so much? They see my posts on Facebook any time there is interesting news on lemurs, a lemur has been born, or random cute pictures of lemurs. “They are just monkeys with long tails, right?” NO. Lemurs are NOT monkeys. I think I need to buy this shirt. When I hear someone make this comment, I have to educate others, even though I realize most are just unaware, but there is an important distinction. Lemurs are primates known as ‘prosimians’ which basically means ‘pre-primates’ or ‘before monkeys.’ They live on the islands of Madagascar. Anyhow, in the next few blogs, you will certainly learn about these wonderful endangered creatures.

Black and white ruffed lemur
 All photos by: Melissa Arditti.
However, in this beginning blog, I will go back to what they mean to me and why I am so attached.

It all started with my brother actually. He was the very first person to bring me a lemur. Before you think that he brought me home a real one, no absolutely not. Lemurs are not meant to be pets, they need proper habitats to thrive, and so this was a plush one. No matter where my brother went on his excursions, he’d always come back with something that he knew would bring a smile to my face.

Intrigued, I started looking up some information provided on the tag about these lemur creatures. As I started to read more about them, I read phrases like “Lemurs are misunderstood primates by others and often viewed as unusual.” This hit a soft spot for me, as I have always felt very different from other people.

With one hurdle after the next to overcome, came about a number of other incidents that were pretty traumatic. Fast forwarding though, the saying ‘time heals all wounds’ may not be exactly accurate, but through various methods, I started to heal from the inside out. My interest in lemurs grew and whenever I needed to feel loved, I would toss on my favourite movie Bridget Jones’ Diary and cuddle with my lemur. I was kind of known as the “lemur girl,” which suited me just fine. They were tough to find though as every toy store had other exotic animals, but rarely ever lemurs. I would carry a photo of a ring-tailed lemur in my wallet, which I still have today, and show others what I was looking for.

I even had a wonderful opportunity to visit Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens here and have a ring-tailed lemur on me. It was an exciting experience and I was beaming for months.


However, the more research I did, I realized that aside from visiting Madagascar which would most likely never happen for me, a place in North Carolina called Duke Lemur Center was my next vacation spot to see so many different kinds of lemurs and take part in a variety of programs they were offering at the time. Forget about sitting on sandy beaches, or shopping, I wanted to see lemurs. My parents though I was a little nuts, but they won’t understand until reading this article why lemurs meant so much to me and still do. We had toyed around with the idea many years ago of visiting Duke, but my world once again got turned upside down.

If I hadn't suffered enough, add on the sudden onset of health issues and a bed-ridden Melissa who was in insurmountable pain, without a cause for a long time. My only ‘outings’ were to doctor’s appointments and hospitals. Drained from all the blood taken out of me, getting no answers, and wondering why God was punishing me, my escape was Youtube videos of lemurs. Leaping from tree to tree, eating grapes, and nuzzling up with the other primates was joyful. I loved them all. Ring-tails, Sifakas, Indris, Ruffed, etc… You can see many types of lemurs here. I knew that travelling was out of the picture, except for my weekly visits stateside to get treatment that would help alleviate the pain I was feeling and allow me to enjoy the simple pleasures that life has to offer. God bless them.

As I started to feel better, I set aside my wish to visit Duke Lemur Center, hoping that maybe someday I would have the chance to go. However, my fascination with lemurs continued and even the slightest glimpse of one on tv, or in movies (Zoboomafoo, Madagascar series, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, John Cleese’s documentary called Lemurs, etc…) made me feel on top of the world.

I began socializing more and a mutual friend introduced me to a really cool girl who I ended up finding out loved lemurs. Her name was Melissa too. She was battling cancer, but what a fighter. She made me a beautiful lemur rock and we were planning on making a lemur-themed garden. We also loved Madagascar the movie with King Julian, so she’d always be sending me funny videos of the hit song “I like to move it move it.” Sadly, she passed away, but the time we had together will always be cherished.

Thankfully after dealing with such sadness, I am happy to say that my health has improved tremendously and I have been with a wonderful man who makes me incredibly happy. We’re approaching 6 years this September. He’s intelligent, funny (after all he is a professional comedic entertainer) supportive and so much more. He embraces my love of lemurs and as you can see from the photo, has contributed to my growing collection.



He even bought me King Julian’s Rules for Ruling The Zoo and read it to me many times, especially when I was very ill and feeling like things would never get better.


So there you have it, a small glimpse into why I am so passionate about these primates. I am also thrilled to say that I will be visiting Duke Lemur Center this summer, so I am beyond excited and will have plenty of pictures and information to share.