The Duke Lemur Center was established as an opportunistic collaboration between two researchers: John Buettner-Janusch of Yale University, who was studying biochemical genetics in lemurs; and Peter Klopfer, a Duke University biologist studying maternal behavior in mammals. Together, the two biologists conceived the idea of establishing a primate facility in Duke Forest that would combine their research perspectives in order to explore the genetic foundations of primate behavior.
For millions of years, lemurs, the ancient relatives of monkeys, apes and humans, have evolved in isolation on the island of Madagascar. With only a few natural predators, expansive habitat, and lush vegetation, lemurs flourished on the island paradise until slightly less than 2,000 years ago when humans began to settle there. Since the first immigrants arrived, one third of the lemur species have become extinct and more teeter on the brink of extinction. As Madagascar’s population is currently doubling every 25 years, there is ever growing pressure for land, mainly for slash-and-burn agriculture.
Protecting and preserving these truly unique primates requires a holistic approach involving multiple strategies both in Madagascar and internationally. Their mission is three-fold: to advance science, scholarship, and biological conservation through interdisciplinary non-invasive research, community-based conservation, and public outreach and education. By engaging scientists, students, and the public in new discoveries and global awareness, the Center promotes a deeper appreciation of biodiversity and an understanding of the power of scientific discovery.
Where is Duke University – Duke Lemur Center