Como Spotlight: Zookeeper Megan, Studbook Keeper for Orangutans and Crowned Lemurs

Can you explain what it means to be the Studbook Keeper for Orangutans and Crowned Lemurs?
I’m basically the genealogist for these species in zoos- regionally for Crowned lemurs (Eulemur coronatus) and internationally for Bornean, Sumatran, & hybrid orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus, Pongo abelii, and Pongo sp.).  It is my job to track all of the individuals living in zoos with the goal of being able to trace each individual’s lineage all the way back to the wild so we know how they are all related within the population.  I record births, transfers, and deaths – and report this data in annual publications on behalf of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA).

How long have you been in these roles?
I have been the N. American Crowned lemur Studbook Keeper for 10 years and the International Orangutan Studbook Keeper for 8 years.  I also serve as the Species Coordinator for Crowned lemurs and the Vice Chair for the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP).

What has been the most rewarding part of being in these roles?
The most rewarding part of this work is being involved in ex-situ conservation for these endangered & critically endangered primates.  The data that I collect is used to make breeding and transfer recommendations within our N. American region and globally.  It’s the equivalent of for zoo animals and it brings me great joy to enter new births!

Why are these roles so important?
We aren’t pulling individuals of these species from the wild (and we don’t want to!) so we need to ensure genetically healthy, demographically stable, self-sustaining zoo populations for generations to come.  Whereas some species are suitable for release back to the wild (such as Como’s successful Wyoming toad program), others can’t be and serve as prime ambassadors for their species.  It is by making connections to animals – and sometimes specific individuals – we hope to educate and inspire our visitors to care about their conservation and survival in the wild.

Anything else you would like to add?
Como Zoo does not currently house Crowned lemurs… but we do house a member of the same genus, Eulemur.  Come visit our Blue-eyed Black lemurs (Eulemur flavifrons), “Eugene & Thurman”, in the Primate Building!

Photo of Crowned Lemurs courtesy of Hogle Zoo