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Madagascar lemurs multiply in Moapa

No one is going to confuse Moapa for Madagascar, but lemurs seem to like it just fine.

A rare, red-ruffed lemur recently gave birth to healthy triplets at the Roos-N-More zoo in the small Clark County town about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

The two girls and a boy were born May 5 to a lemur that was named Clooney — as in George — back when its handlers thought she was a male.

Veterinarian Valerie Holt, who owns the zoo, said she thought Clooney might be pregnant, but the babies didn’t show up in an initial exam.

“We definitely weren’t expecting triplets,” she said. “I was ecstatic.”

The trio now behaves like a litter of enthusiastic puppies, jumping around and chewing on stuff, including their mother. “They’re just adorable,” Holt said.

But they won’t be around for long.

In a month or two, Roos-N-More will ship the youngsters off to other places that breed lemurs — one in Florida, one in Texas and one in Idaho.

Yes, Idaho. “Potatoes and lemurs, I guess that’s what they’re known for,” said zoo manager Carrie Marques.

The trio is being split up to keep their bloodlines clean and prevent inbreeding as researchers work to bolster the species’ numbers. The eventual goal is to release some future generation of captive-bred lemurs back into the forests of their African island homeland, Marques said.

“They are one of the most rare, one of the most critically endangered lemurs in the world,” she said. The triplets are “going to go help their species.”

Roos-N-More endured its own extinction scare earlier this year when Nevada lawmakers considered a bill that would have outlawed exotic animal ownership in the wake of several high-profile chimpanzee escapes in Las Vegas.

Holt and her veterinarian husband, Jay, traveled to Carson City to fight the bill, which she said lumped an accredited operation such as theirs in with more casual pet owners.

In the end, the measure was dramatically scaled back by the Senate before being quietly killed by a committee in the Assembly.

“It was a lesson in politicking, which is something I didn’t know a whole lot about,” Holt said.

“We were OK with some kind of rules and regulations,” Marques added. “We don’t think Bob Jones down the street should have a tiger in his backyard.”

The Holts opened Roos-N-More in 2008 to show off their growing menagerie of exotic pets.

The 3-acre zoo is now home to about 350 animals, though about 100 are birds and another 100 are reptiles, Holt said.

They recently added a few small carnivores to their collection, but they still shy away from large, man-eating creatures.

The monkeylike, red-ruffed lemur has big yellow eyes, a snout like a fox and small ears hidden by a ruff of hair. Its face and tail are black, but its body is covered in thick, soft fur the color of rust.

The Holts thought they were getting a male to breed with the female they already had when Clooney was delivered about two years ago. They immediately realized the mistake, but it took them another year to finally get the mate they were after: Harrison, also as in George.

Now they suspect their other female red-ruffed lemur might be pregnant.

“He did his job,” Marques said of Harrison. “He did a great job.”

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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