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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, February 6, 2015

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D’


Coming to Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Feb. 13



A special group of animals living on a remote island in the Indian Ocean may best be known as characters in animated films, but lemurs are very real. Audiences can learn more about these high-energy creatures when “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D” opens at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater on Friday, Feb. 13.

This new IMAX 3D film is an account of the life and career of Dr. Patricia Wright. She has made the modern-day survival of the highly endangered lemurs her life’s work. “The lemurs’ story is one of the great adventures of epic proportions,” said Drew Fellman, the film’s writer and producer. “A twist of fate brought them to this strange island, where they forged a new life and whole parallel reality that was uniquely theirs. That inspired us to make this movie.”

“Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D” places audiences in the remote rainforests, where lemurs leap from tree to tree and bound across the landscape.

The Ring-tailed Lemur is perhaps the most recognizable because it has been portrayed in films and is a fairly common species in zoos worldwide. “One of the funniest sights in Madagascar is watching the ringtails sunbathe in the morning,” said Fellman. “After waking up, they climb to the tops of rocks and trees and open their arms wide to catch the sun.”

That said, nothing quite captures the fun of lemurdom like the sight of dancing Sifakas.

Sifakas are large, slender lemurs that are mostly arboreal. They can leap great distances between trees that are covered in needle-sharp spines. They’re built for jumping, not walking, and when they travel on the ground, they skip and dance from side to side in what’s been described as a charming lateral ballet. “It’s hilarious, it’s acrobatic, and it’s just an extraordinary sight to see,” said Fellman.

If the Sifakas are the dance troupe, the Indri, the largest of the lemurs, are the choral masters. “They have a primitive wail that echoes through the forest,” said Fellman. “The whole group will join in and sing to each other across long distances.”

Mouse Lemurs and Greater Bamboo Lemurs are two species being helped through the conservation efforts of Dr. Wright.

Greater Bamboo Lemurs are extremely rare, with perhaps only 300 individuals left in the world. Dr. Wright has been diligently monitoring their population and even moving a few individuals from one protected forest to another with the hope of bolstering their numbers. The film crew captured a “love story” between two groups of these critically endangered Greater Bamboo Lemurs. “In a film full of firsts, that was my favorite moment,” said David Douglas, the film’s director and cinematographer. “Capturing that successful meeting and the release that followed, creating a new family and the possibility of replenishing the population.”

The Mouse Lemur is the smallest primate in the world but it still has the same genetic foundation of all primates, including humans.

Dr. Wright has been tracking 500 Mouse Lemurs for more than a decade with microchips. In this case, the researchers are trying to unlock secrets these nocturnal creatures harbor that may yield medical advances for humans. “Mouse Lemurs in captivity are one of the few animals that have been documented getting Alzheimer’s,” said Douglas. “By conducting a long-term study of wild populations, Dr. Wright and her colleagues hope to analyze the difference between captive and wild populations to search for clues for the disease’s cause.”

“Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D,” narrated by Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, is approximately 40 minutes in length and is rated G.

Source: Tennessee Aquarium