Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre, Heckmondwike, 11.15 a.m.: One of the ring-tailed lemurs is keeping an eye on the silver fox in the next enclosure. It backs up to a post and scent-marks with its anal gland, rubbing against the timber, then turns around to check, pressing its nose close to the spot.
It relaxes with a little grooming and pauses to watch a bit of thistledown drift up in front of it.
A male settles down to take a look out of the far corner of the enclosure. Soon the female comes over and displaces him and he climbs out of her way instantly, without any dispute. Lemur society is matriarchal.
One of the females does a handstand to leave her scent mark on a post but I get the impression that it’s mainly the males who act as look-outs for the group. They’re the ones getting up on their hind legs at the back of the enclosure staring at me as if they’re thinking ‘What’s he up to?’
There are four or five lemurs in the Ponderosa group.
The males appear to have scent glands on the inside of their wrists. Often when a male sits looking out of the enclosure at me or the other visitors, he’ll rub the end of his tail between his wrists. I don’t think that I saw a female do this; females seem more likely to use their anal glands for scent-marking.
When one of the lemurs yawns, the shape of its jaw reminds me of that of a dog. In the brief glimpse that I get of its teeth, I think that I can see a pair of small canines at the front of the jaw.
Their feet look rather like hands. They bound around balletically with backs alternately arched then stretched.
I made a couple of quick colour notes then added the watercolour as we waited for our lunch. It was surprising how ochre, grey and black, plus a spot of dull amber for the eyes, brought the drawings to life.
As you can see, with these visual notes; I was observing behaviour rather than trying to complete a portrait of a particular animal.
The origins of place names in the Huddersfield area, including Heckmondwike