Wilmington's Brandywine Zoo has some new residents.
The Zoo's Madagascar exhibit opens to the public Friday.
The exhibit includes a male and female Crowned lemur that will be paired for breeding. Radiated tortoises also share space in the 4,000-square-foot exhibit, the zoo's largest ever capital project.
Lemurs scampered up their cages and along the ropes above at a ribbon-cutting event Thursday, one day before they are sure to entertain children, especially.
Beyond the entertainment, however, the exhibit also raises awareness about the issues in Madagascar that threaten the species such as poaching, deforestation and climate change. According to Delaware Zoological Society Executive Director Mark Shafer, although the animals come from other zoos in the United States, they trace their lineage to Madagascar, where they are endangered.
"What we're hearing from membership and guests, they're very excited about having lemurs in particular - lemurs are real popular with kids, I'm sure. But, the whole notion of conservation and educating people in terms of what has to happen in Madagascar to keep animals like lemurs active and thriving is a big part of what we want to do here," Shafer said.
"The Madagascar exhibit and other planned upgrades will allow the public to view these rare animals and learn how we humans can take actions in our daily lives to lessen our impact on species' extinction,"Delaware Natural Resources Secretary Shawn Garvin said.
The new exhibit is part of Brandywine Zoo's master plan, which will focus on the welfare of animals and conservation issues, while creating more mixed-species exhibits.
It's been the mission of Brandywine Zoo Director Brint Spencer - a very personal mission. Spencer worked at the zoo while he was in high school, worked professionally at other zoos, then came back to Brandywine when the director's position became available.
"To be able to create a master plan and a new direction for the zoo to go is personally exciting, and having the first exhibit open up is just thrilling," Spencer said. "I think people are really going to enjoy this when they come out and see it."
Due to the pandemic, visitors to the zoo must register online and reserve a set time. Masks are required for everyone five years of age or older and are strongly suggested for children age two and older.
Also, because the lemurs are from a tropical climate, they will only come out for public view if the outdoor temperature is 45 degrees or higher