Culture & Entertainment

Learn about lemurs at the Ontario Science Centre

By: Day Helesic
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Learn about lemurs at the Ontario Science Centre

By: Day Helesic

Lemur Ontario Science Centre Guest post by Leah Morrison The best school outing I ever had was my Grade 5 field trip to the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. Sixteen years later, I walked through its doors again to watch the new IMAX and Warner Bros. film Island of Lemurs: Madagascar. The movie officially opened on June 27, but I was lucky enough to get a special viewing a few days before. Director-cinematographer David Douglas and writer-producer Drew Fellman have created a 40-minute educational film looking at the history and ecosystem of various species of lemurs. The pair travelled to Madagascar (the only place in the world where wild lemurs live) and shot some incredible footage of the animals in their natural environment. The movie also looks at the efforts of Dr. Patricia Wright, an American primatologist, anthropologist and conservationist, to preserve the lemur population of Madagascar. Morgan Freeman narrates the documentary (as he did Douglas and Fellman’s first film, Born To Be Wild), and after seeing March of the Penguins, I was tickled pink to have him teach me more about wildlife. The movie, which is showing in the massive dome-shaped IMAX theatre, is perfect for families who are visiting the science centre—I learned important information about not only lemurs but also the passion people have for saving them and their diminishing Madagascar habitat. The film is great for children at any age. During my preview there were older students on a class trip who understood the information, and much younger children who loved the images of lemurs leaping and dancing on such a large screen. After the screening, I was led to a media room for the chance to talk to the filmmakers. However, I became completely distracted once I saw Stewie, a five-year-old ring-tailed lemur hanging out on a table with his trainer. Stewie was there from Earth Rangers, a Canadian children’s conservation program that promotes environmental protection and the survival of wild species. Earth Rangers travels to over 550 Canadian schools a year as part of its Educational Outreach Program, one of the many it offers. Trainers discuss the importance of protecting natural habitats and adopting more sustainable behaviours. More than 200,000 children have registered online to be official Earth Rangers, who actively raise awareness about preserving the environment and wildlife. Earth Rangers began in 2001 with only eight animals, but has grown to include 40, of various species. “The first lemur I started working with was seven years ago,” says Meghan Woodworth, lead trainer and show supervisor. "I got to hand-raise him in my house for eight months.” But with the ability to jump 12 times their body length, lemurs don’t make the most ideal house pets. Woodworth trains all the animals that come to the Earth Rangers Centre, from bald eagles to African cats. “We had a breeding pair [of lemurs] at the centre, and Stewie was the first lemur born in captivity.” Ring-tailed lemurs are very social, and Woodworth has earned her place as a troop member. “We spend a lot of time grooming and hanging out, and just keeping up those social bonds,” she laughs. Because females are the leaders in ring-tailed troops, Stewie recognizes her as the dominant one. “[Naturally seeing the female trainer as the one in charge] is great for the education that we do.” Woodworth’s favourite thing about the energetic creatures is their sun ritual. “In the morning, they present their tummies to the sun as a way to warm themselves up—it gets pretty cold at night in Madagascar,” she says. “They close their eyes and lift their front feet up. You can’t even get into the sun without Stewie putting his butt down and his arms in the air. We call it his Buddha pose.” Woodworth says she thinks the family film is a wonderful tool for learning about biodiversity, especially for students. “The more aware they are of it at this age, [the more] it will stay in the back of their minds,” she says. “If they have that passion, they can start pursuing it now while they’re in elementary school.” By the end of summer the film will be showing in participating IMAX theatres throughout North America. Tickets can be purchased for Island of Lemurs: Madagascar at the Ontario Science Centre. Looking for another great summer activity? Try a family film night under the stars at an outdoor movie venue.  Photo courtesy of the Ontario Science Centre
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Learn about lemurs at the Ontario Science Centre

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