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All About Jill

Lemur Foraging & Enrichment Project

Frankfort Park Zoo, IN

Summer 2014

By: Sara Lennox


NAME: Jill, or Baby Girl


SPECIES: Common Brown Lemur


HISTORY: Bought in 1995; never has been sick (as far as they know); had a previous companion lemur that died of a neurologic disorder years ago; unknown age, female.


EXISTING BODY CONDITION: Overweight; approx. 7 lbs.; rolls of fat on belly area; lipoma on stomach.


DIET: 5 Mazuri primate biscuits; 1/3 banana (when available); variety of fruit, berries, sometimes yogurt (whatever is donated by local grocery); ignores greens.


SCHEDULE: Food for entire day given at 9 a.m.; 2 bowls of water; 1 bowl of food in kennel (in corner shelf of enclosure).


HABITAT: Tire swing; hanging log; kennel on shelf; ground completely covered with grass and weeds; one large rubber ball; approx. 15 x 30 ft. enclosure; wooden with chicken wire.


Weekly Updates:


WEEK 1: See history information above.


WEEK 2: I placed grapes in the rungs of the tire swing chains and along the ledges of the enclosure. Jill, after some coaxing, eventually climbed around the walls to the ledges and leaped two times from the wall onto the tire swing to get the grapes. I attempted to do the same “game” with her biscuits, but she would not touch them and gradually grew tired of the game, even with the grapes.


jill6WEEK 3: I weighed Jill and found her to be 6.8 lbs. or approx. 7 lbs. We played a game with a glass ball jar in which I hid pieces of fruit inside the jar along with grass and leaves. She seemed to like it and did it several times, but I decided not to use this toy after Nichole Simon (Lemur keeper at the Indianapolis Zoo) advised against giving Jill glass objects. At this point, the zoo volunteers should have been scattering her biscuits only and not using her food bowl.


jill7WEEK 4: I gave Jill a tissue box stuffed with hay and hid pieces of banana inside it. She easily found the fruit and even stuck her entire head in the box! I also gave her a toy I call “hanging walnuts,” in which a grape is placed between two hanging walnut shells and hung from a branch. She leaped once onto the tire swing and pulled the toy up into her hands to get the grape. I left a tray of ice cubes with blueberries frozen inside for the zoo volunteers to give her on hot days (instead of popsicles, which happened occasionally in the past).


jill 2WEEK 5: I placed leaves of lettuce and banana pieces between pages in a phonebook and left it on the ground. Jill did not turn the pages, but stuck her head through the sides of the book and pulled the fruit out with her mouth. At one point, she took out a leaf of lettuce and ate about half of it, which was the first time I had seen her eat greens. I also hung a small plastic in various places around her enclosure and filled it with ripped lettuce and grapes. She climbed the walls and easily found the grapes. I offered her an ice cube, but she ignored it after two licks. The head of the zoo informed me that he had recently seen Jill climbing around more often and appearing to be more energetic and “happy.” A few times, she leaped and attempted to climb up me to get her fruit!

jill3WEEK 6: I spent the majority of the time fastening two new crates to the walls of Jill’s enclosure. While I did this, Jill pulled Rice Chex out of a cottage cheese container filled with grass. I learned that not all of the volunteers had been placing her food in the toys, but they had been scattering and hiding it around the enclosure (e.g. inside the tire swing, along the ledges, etc.). I also placed a crate, barrel, and PVC pipe inside her enclosure to be used for other hiding places and/or perches.

jill 8WEEK 7: Like last week, I spent most of my time at the zoo improving Jill’s enclosure. I fastened a tarp over a corner of her enclosure for two hours, all the while giving Jill a phonebook and cottage cheese container to play with. I rearranged the items in her enclosure to make it look new to her. I attempted to add another rope to her enclosure, but the clasps would not fit through the wire.


Weekly Instructions:


WEEK 1: None.


WEEK 2: Scatter biscuits and fruit around the enclosure (e.g. tire swing, ledges).


WEEK 3: Continue to scatter biscuits and fruit around the enclosure. Give her the ball jar for enrichment. DO NOT leave her biscuits in the enclosure overnight; take them out if she does not eat them by the end of the day.


WEEK 4: Scatter biscuits and fruit. Make her climb and work for any food or treats. Enrich her with the tissue box and “hanging walnuts” at least once a day. On a hot day, give her an ice cube and see if she will eat it. Take the bowl out of her enclosure. If it rains, take her biscuits out until it stops. DO NOT use the bowl, if you can help it.


WEEK 5: I did not leave print instructions, but simply told the volunteers to continue hiding her food and use the toys. I again suggested the idea of splitting her diet in half and feeding her twice a day.


WEEKS 6 & 7: I decided that the volunteers were most likely not going to read my instructions anymore (as they rarely did to begin with) and that they were starting to get the hang of enrichment, so I stopped leaving print instructions altogether. I do, however, continue to give numerous verbal reminders to anyone who will listen. I am planning soon a meeting with as many volunteers as will gather in order to give a presentation on anything they would like to know about foraging and enrichment and to answer any questions they might have.



Natural Habitat:

–   Arid, open areas and forests

–   15 to 57 acres in size


Healthy Body Conditions:

–    6 to 7 lbs. (3 Kg); females are usually smaller

–    Lifespan: approx. 20-30 years


Natural/Approved Diet:

–    Leaves, flowers, insects (also fruit, herbs)

–    For zoos: fruits, vegetables, leaf-eater biscuits


Characteristics of Wild Lemurs:

–    Social groups of 3-25 individuals

–    Range up to 3.5 miles a day in search of food

–    Social bonds: grooming, sunbathing, etc.

Source: Smithsonian National Zoological Park (online)


Indianapolis Zoo Visit, 15 July 2014:


Nichole and Heather gave me many suggestions and ideas for ways to improve Jill’s enclosure, which may be summed up in one word: branches. The two of them repeatedly stressed the importance of branches and various perches for the lemurs to climb on. Other objects they suggested were crates, barrels, hammocks, tunnels, and buckets.

As far as Jill’s diet, the two of them gave me these ideas for food enrichment:

  1. 2 Frisbees looped through a drilled hole in their centers; food inside.
  2. Boxes/jugs with holes filled with Cheerios, raisins, sunflower seeds, etc.
  3. Barrels/PVC pipes smeared with applesauce, pumpkin, baby food, etc.
  4. Soaked biscuits blended with juice and fruit, other soft food.
  5. Frozen oatmeal–and-fruit balls.
  6. Hanging cups of frozen blended fruit or sugar-free Kool-Aid (for hot days).

Nichole and Heather suggested as well that I add a tarp to a portion of the enclosure roof for better protection from the rain and that suitable auditory enrichment items would be bells, wind chimes, and music from a radio. Nichole cautioned me about the potential hazards certain materials could pose to the lemurs if ingested, which I took note of.



Final Meeting with Volunteers, 7 August 2014:

I met with the long-term volunteers and other staff members, as well as Dr. Lennox and inspector Lori Lynn, to review what I did with Jill this summer and leave them a binder of everything they would want to know about enrichment and foraging. More people were present than I was expecting, which was great! A few of the volunteers asked good, logical questions about the limits of the activities they could do with Jill, specifically the plants, herbs, and other food-like materials they needed to avoid.

The inspector, with Dr. Lennox’s help, explained the necessity of the enrichment program for Jill and informed the zoo volunteers that she would need them to document their enrichment program and have Dr. Lennox sign off on it. After that, I told the volunteers that there was not much more I could do for them and that this was the point where they needed to take charge. My mom, the inspector, and I left the zoo feeling fairly optimistic, but time will only tell.


Special Thanks to:

CONSULTING VETERINARIAN: Dr. Angela Lennox, Avian & Exotic Animal Clinic of Indianapolis

FORAGING/ENRICHMENT CONSULTANTS: Nichole Simon and Heather Pulford, Indianapolis Zoo


Indianapolis Zoo

Mazuri Company