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Planet Earth

Visit North Carolina's Lemur Sanctuary

The Duke Lemur Center is home to the largest collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar.

By Allie WilkinsonMay 9, 2014 7:00 PM
Get up and personal on the Walk With Lemurs tour. | David Haring/Duke Lemur Center


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Duke Lemur Center

Durham, N.C.

35º59'40"N, 78º57'41"

Located on 80 wooded acres just two miles down the road from Duke University, the Duke Lemur Center is home to the largest collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar. The facility houses nearly 250 lemurs representing 18 species, as well as four other prosimian species.

AU NATUREL: Since research comes first and foremost at the facility, the center aims to preserve or encourage the lemurs’ innate behaviors. You won’t find a more natural experience with lemurs anywhere else besides Madagascar.

Gray mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus) | David Haring

TAKE A TOUR: On the Lemurs Live! tour, learn about the animals and the center’s research and conservation efforts. This 60- to 90-minute tour is available seven days a week, year-round. Appointments are required; calling a week in advance is recommended: 919-401-7240. Tours are $10 for adults, $7 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for children 2 or younger.

DUKE IT OUT(SIDE): Duke Forest, which surrounds the Lemur Center, is 7,060 acres of land managed by the university. Visitors are free to explore parts of the forest, which is primarily used as an outdoor  laboratory for ecosystem studies, on foot, bike or horseback.

GO TO CAMP: Familiarize yourself with tree species native to the Piedmont region of North Carolina at Tree Camp. Adults and high school students can join a three-hour camp session at various locations for $20 or a five-hour session for $30. 

THREE’S COMPANY: One bonus about the three cities that form Research Triangle Park is having three science museums within less than an hour of each other. Walk through one of the world’s largest butterfly conservatories at Durham’s Museum of Life and Science. See stars at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill. And, meet a scientist at Raleigh’s Nature Research Center, the newest wing of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata variegata) | David Haring/Duke Lemur Center

GO: A car is your best option for getting around the area, especially in summer heat. The nearest airport is Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which is less than 20 miles from the Lemur Center. 

GO DEEPER: The center’s most popular in-depth tour, Walking with Lemurs, is a 60-minute experience offered from May to mid-October. Visitors stroll through the center’s forested enclosures as the lemurs roam freely. No need to worry about packing a zoom lens for this tour — there are no barriers between you and the lemurs. You’ll be inches away from some of the world’s most endangered animals. 

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