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For kids: Look at those lemurs!

Far from Madagascar, these primates find a home in the US.

(Page 2 of 2)

Four years ago, scientists named a new lemur species, the Avahi cleesei, after Mr. Cleese.

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Different types of lemurs

One neat thing about lemurs is their astonishing variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and lifestyles.

The ring-tailed lemur has a long tail with black and white rings. You may have seen this lemur in the animated films "Madagascar" and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa."

Like most lemurs, ring-tails are active during the day. They are very sociable and prefer to hang out with their buddies. In chilly weather, a group will huddle closely together for warmth. And these little guys love the sun. They will sit upright with their arms and legs stretched out to soak up the sunshine on their stomachs.

But when male lemurs get upset with their pals, they can create a real stink – literally! Ring-tailed lemurs produce a strong odor from scent glands that they rub onto their tails and thrash at their opponents.

One of the most beautiful lemurs is the brown and white Coquerel's sifaka. This lemur leaps from tree to tree and can soar distances up to 20 feet. When they're on the ground, the sifakas, unlike other lemurs, hop on two legs like kangaroos!

Other lemurs are just as interesting. The blue-eyed lemur is the only primate besides humans to have blue-colored eyes, while the lesser mouse lemur is one of the smallest and is active at night.

Oh, what big eyes you have

Just like cats, lemurs have tissue over their retinas that cause their eyes to shine eerily at night. Because of this, the people of Madagascar have always associated lemurs with spirits. In fact, the word lemur means "ghost" in Latin.

In addition to its big, staring eyes, the bizarre aye-aye lemur has huge ears and a long clawlike middle finger that it uses to dig insects out of tree bark. This gives it an especially frightening appearance.

Many native people mistakenly think the aye-aye is evil, says Fidisoa Rasambainarivo, a veterinarian at a zoological park in Toamasina on the east coast of Madagascar.

"Some tribes believe they must be killed," Dr. Rasambainarivo wrote in an e-mail. And in some parts of the country, "tribes still hunt lemurs for human consumption."

But the news isn't all bad.

Other species, such as the indri – the largest lemur – is considered sacred, and it's forbidden to kill one, he says.

One way that some people help protect lemurs is by adopting one from the Duke Lemur Center. No, that doesn't mean they can take a lemur home with them. But those who become involved with the center do help scientists continue their research on these amazing animals.