Endangered lemur found in city sent to rare species centre in Britain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 May, 2010, 12:00am

An endangered lemur found running around an industrial building in Sham Shui Po has begun a new life in Britain after being cared for in Hong Kong for a year.

The seven-year-old fat-tailed dwarf lemur was found in the building in May last year after apparently being abandoned by its owner after being imported illegally.

A native of Madagascar, it was cared for at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden until a place was found for it in the breeding programme of the Rare Species Conservation Centre in Kent.

Kadoorie's operators felt the little primate, accustomed to the dry, deciduous forests on the island of Madagascar, off Africa, would do better there.

'The fat-tailed dwarf lemur has a high conservation value. Because it is not native to Hong Kong, we decided to send it to the Rare Species Conservation Centre, which runs one of the best breeding programmes of rare animals in the world,' a Kadoorie spokesman said.

The dwarf lemur, the tiniest of the species, is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, meaning it is threatened with extinction and international trade of it is prohibited.

But unscrupulous traders had smuggled it to Hong Kong where keeping exotic pets such as giant spiders and lizards is popular.

In May last year, the abandoned pet was seen running in an industrial building. It was captured by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department which said it was the first of its kind found to have been kept as a pet in Hong Kong.

The lemur gets its name from its tail which it uses to store fat to survive cool and dry seasons. It has a diverse diet consisting mostly of fruit, flower nectar and insects.

The lemurs, with a grey upper body and lighter underside, can live up to 15 years in captivity.