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Cheers and Jeers

March 28, 2014 | Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to new IMAX documentary that puts spotlight on lemurs

By Nicole Rivard

Cheers to IMAX® and Warner Bros. Pictures’ for creating “Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar”—a documentary that opened at the IMAX theater in Norwalk, Conn., in Friends of Animals’ backyard—for giving people of all ages an up close and personal look at these endangered animals. 

Narrated by Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman, this spectacular giant-screen journey to the remote and wondrous world of Madagascar tells the story of Earth’s most endangered primates.

This new giant-screen adventure travels to Madagascar and turns the IMAX cameras on lemurs, a unique line of primates that have been bounding around on the island paradise off Africa’s eastern coast – and only on that single island paradise – after arriving there on rafts made of natural vegetation millions of years ago.

Audiences will learn about lemurs’ “castaway” history and will be charmed by the animals’ expressive faces, ghostly communicative noises and whimsical movements. 

But they’ll also see how lemurs’ very existence is threatened by habitat destruction; the loss of their forest homes to logging, mining and “slash-and-burn” farming.

Lemurs are also threatened by the exotic pet trade industry, a disgusting business that Friends of Animals knows all too well. At our Primarily Primates sanctuary in San Antonio, Texas, we provide homes for 44 lemurs, 34 of which are ringtail lemurs (Lemur catta), two are white-fronted lemurs (Eulemur fulvus alifrons) and eight  are brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus fulvus) from both research and exotic pet trade sources. Hopefully after people see the movie, they will realize keeping a lemur as a pet is cruel. 

Lemurs are in such dire straits that just last month, a team of scientists drafted an emergency three-year protection plan for lemurs after declaring that 94 percent of lemur species are considered vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered – making them the most threatened mammal group on Earth.

“Island of Lemurs: Madagascar” follows Dr. Patricia Wright, a professor of biological anthropology at Stony Brook University on Long Island, whose lifelong mission is to help these animals survive in the modern world.

In 1991, Dr. Wright’s study of lemurs spurred Madagascar to create a park system, including Ranomafana National Park, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses the home of 12 lemur species, some of which are listed among the world’s most endangered animals.

Recently, she spearheaded the creation of Centre ValBio, a huge preserve that is a modern hub for multidisciplinary research, training and public awareness, the first in Madagascar.

For her efforts, Dr. Wright is one of six finalists for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation. (The winner will be announced this summer.)

On Thurs., April 17, Dr. Wright will be at the IMAX theater to speak about her work with lemurs and the making of “Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar,” which will be shown as part of the event. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. talk are $20 ($16 for Aquarium members). Reserve tickets by calling 203.852-0700, ext. 2206.

Friends of Animals will be at the event to report on Dr. Wright’s work. 

Visit to find a theater near you.


We have a CHEER today for director, Darren Aronofsky, who collaborated with visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic to ensure that no live animals were used in the filming of the newly released movie, "Noah". The human actors will be the only real beings in the film, as the giant cast of animal characters have all been digitally rendered by ILM, who say that this was their most complicated and intricate project to date.

In an interview, Aronofsky explained the process of working with ILM to create their virtual collection of animal actors: “We basically went through the animal kingdom and pinpointed the body types we wanted: some pachyderms, some rodents, reptiles, and the bird kingdom. We chose the species and they were brought to life with different furs and colors.” He went on to explain that after seeing the awful conditions some primates were kept in during the filming of an earlier film "The Fountain", he made the decision to never use "animal actors" in any of his future movies. 

Friends of Animals knows all too well about the problems involving animals exploited by the entertainment industry since  it manages the Primarily Primates sanctuary in Texas, which cares for many chimpanzees used in entertainment who were discarded once they got too old to control. 

We applaud Aronofsky’s dedication to not using animal actors in his film and proving that CGI is more than capable of creating an extremely realistic visual experience for film-goers and live animals are absolutely not necessary in the entertainment industry. 




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