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Leaping lemurs!

Lemurs love cameras. And I don’t mean that they enjoy being photographed — these energetic, curious animals love to nibble on, lick and play with cameras and other expensive electronic equipment.

Today I visited the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, a small zoo where the staff encourages interactive experiences with wildlife. One of their most popular programs is Lemur Encounter, in which particpents sit in an enclosed tent with a quartet of juvenille lemurs. These exotic animals are members of the primate family, although they don’t particularly look like monkies, and are native only to the island nation of Madagascar.

So I went into the tent, along with a handful of other visitors. When zoo director Patti Hall brought the four lemurs into the tent with us, they lept into a frenzie, playing a fast-paced game of follow-the-leader in circles around the tent. After a few minutes, though, they became curious about us, and began to jump into our laps, paw at our faces, and grab our cameras, sunglasses and anything else they could find to play with. By the end of the session, they had made friends with their visitors, snuggleing into our arms and letting us rub their bellies.

The lemur encounter is one of several programs like it at the zoo.  For next year, Hall hopes to have four such programs, including a playtime with young tiger cubs and an interactive reptile exhibit where guests can hold a baby alligator and albino python. If what I experienced today was any indication, the program is on its way to being a smash hit.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.