Okay, let’s get the puns out of the way. While it is never inappropriate to spank your monkey in public, and only Peter Gabriel can shock the monkey, at Wellington Zoo you can, however, touch some monkeys. Sort of. Well, the touching part is correct, but technically the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemurs aren’t actually primates, they’re a kind of pre-primate. Okay, I should have written notes, but I WAS TOUCHING A LEMUR at the very kind invitation of Wellington Zoo to try out their new Lemur Encounter. You try taking notes while these guys are sitting on your lap. 

A fat girl is insanely overjoyed at the two fluffy creatures climbing on her lap
I AM TOUCHING THE LEMURS! Photo by the wonderful Tom Goulter

So, like other encounters we’ve done, you enter the enclosure with a keeper or two, who will tell you where to sit and how to act, take photos if you’d like them to, and answer your silly questions (in this case, Madagascar-related, for which I blame Tom). The keeper will also give you grapes to feed to the lemurs, which they’ll take in their hands, and then tip their heads back just like the red pandas so as not to get any juice on their fur. Lemurs may look a lot like dogs in really fluffy pants, but their fingers are very human-like.

Most lemurs come from Madagascar, but 17-year-old Lucky and 3-year-old son Ankari came  from Hamilton Zoo. This probably explains why they occasionally feel the need to screech really loudly – luckily we were warned about that, and that it’s not actually a threat, otherwise it might have been a little scary. Mostly though, what stuck with me was just how incredibly fluffy they were. We were told that the special claw they have for grooming makes the softest animal in the zoo, and while I think I need to do some more hands-on research, I pretty much believe it. 

lemur by itself
As soft as the hair of the member for Ohariu

Of course, while it is absolutely lovely to be able to go in and interact with the lemurs, there’s a serious reason for Wellington Zoo to run the encounters too.

“Having Lucky and Ankari here is a great opportunity to talk to visitors about these beautiful and fascinating animals, which are critically endangered as a result of hunting and deforestation”

“This year we began supporting the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group – azoo-based conservation organisation that protects Black-and-White Ruffed Lemurs, as well as other threatened wildlife in Madagascar.”

“10% from every Lemur Close Encounter goes directly to conservation programmes in the wild – like the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group – so visitors can feel empowered that by experiencing a Close Encounter with our Lemurs, they’re helping to protect their wild habitat.”

Thanks so much for having us! Lemur Close Encounters run every day at 3.15pm. Each Close Encounter lasts for 30 minutes and is $95 per person.

Minimum age is 4 years old. Check availability and book online at wellingtonzoo.com.

A lemur on a log
A lemur on a log