Meet Madagascar's lemurs in new IMAX film

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Apr 01, 2014 - 2:09 PM |
The Ring-Tailed Lemur is just one of the species of lemur featured in the new IMAX movie, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D. The film opens at  Science North's IMAX theatre this weekend. Supplied photo.

The Ring-Tailed Lemur is just one of the species of lemur featured in the new IMAX movie, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D. The film opens at Science North's IMAX theatre this weekend. Supplied photo.

Unique primates at risk of extinction

Science North is one of only four places in Canada where Warner Bros. new IMAX movie, "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D," opens April 4.

And live lemurs will be there to help bring the movie to life.

The film, narrated by Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, runs throughout the science centre's summer season.

Audiences attending Science North's 10 a.m., 11:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. showings of the film April 4-6 get a chance to see live lemurs during presentations from Jungle Cat World.

Scientists believe that 60 million years ago, an African ancestor of the primate now known as lemurs washed out to sea on a floating raft of vegetation, and landed on on the Texas-sized island of Madagascar.

Since the island was cut off, there were no other primates to compete with. Lemurs adapted to fill every ecological niche across the island's habitats.

They evolved into hundreds of different species, some as large as a gorilla. That was before humans first arrived in Madagascar 2,000 years ago.

Now more than 90 per cent of Madagascar's forests have been destroyed and all the giant lemurs are extinct. Three-quarters of the remaining lemurs are also at risk of extinction.

Madagascar's environment is under assault, as farmers and cattle herders burn rainforest and grasslands, and loggers cut down trees, said the film's Vancouver-based director, David Douglas.

The film follows American primatologist, Patricia Wright, who pushes for habitat preservation on the island, and was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Ranomafana National Park, where lemurs can live undisturbed.

“If we lose these animals, we lose individuals who have real lives that are worth living,” Douglas said, in a press release.

“The more we can help our audience make that connection, the more we enable people like Pat who are physically trying to keep them on earth.”

Spending time with the lemurs was a magical experience, he said.

They have tremendous physical abilities that help them navigate their habitat with ease, Douglas said. “Suddenly they'll just jump sideways 30 feet and land on a tree like Spiderman,” he said.

They also have beautiful vocalizations that send “chills down your spine,” Douglas said. “We became determined to reproduce that experience for the audience.

Lemurs are also very curious little creatures, he said.

“They'll come down and check you out very carefully,” Douglas said.

“They're not big enough to take your stuff away, but they'll come down and have a look through your stuff. They have hands like we do, and they can do things with those hands. They can open things.”

Science North marketing specialist Christine Catt said the science centre is pleased to show the film.

“It's one of those films I think will appeal to all age demographics because everyone loves cute and fluffy little animals,” she said. “Lemurs really fit the bill.”
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer


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