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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spooked lemurs avoid the ground after celestial event

Staff writer

Possibly influenced by the annular eclipse Monday morning, 23 ring-tailed lemurs at the Japan Monkey Center in Inuyama stayed in palm trees and on poles instead of coming down to eat as usual around 7 a.m., said Akira Kato, general manager of the zoo in Aichi Prefecture.

News photo
A child watches the eclipse next to a ring-tailed lemur at the Japan Monkey Center in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture. KYODO

During the eclipse, some of the lemurs seemed overexcited and jumped from tree to tree, he said.

"They all looked like they didn't want to come down to the ground," Kato said.

"They were not looking at the sun, though."

Around 8:45 a.m., near the end of the eclipse, two or three of the lemurs came down to eat weeds, but none of the others were seen eating anything even as late as 1:30 p.m., he said.

The partial eclipse began in Inuyama about 6:17 a.m., with the annular eclipse lasting about 2½ minutes from 7:29 a.m. The whole thing wrapped up at about 9 a.m.

The center has about 70 kinds of primates, including chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. But only the ring-tailed lemurs behaved oddly, Kato said.

This isn't unheard of. During an eclipse on July 22, 2009, which was seen in totality over the Okinawa and Ogasawara islands, ring-tailed lemurs cried unusually and gathered at their sleeping spots, he said.

The center, which normally opens at 10 a.m. in May, opened early Monday to let visitors enjoy both the eclipse and the ring-tailed lemurs' reactions to it. About 120 people were present Monday morning.

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