One week later: Cassandra the ring-tailed lemur

It’s Wednesday morning and I am heading out to the Red Wolf  SSP meeting (I’ll write about this next week, but click here to learn about last year’s  RWSSP masterplan meeting).

Literally,  just one week ago, the keepers found Cassandra, our 16 year old ring-tailed lemur, in respiratory distress. Dr. Vanderford responded quickly and we decided to quickly head to the Duke Lemur Center. Things were so bad I didn’t even think of taking any photos. As always, the folks at DLC were amazing, and after a brush with death,  Dr. Cathy Williams pulled 100 ml of fluid out of Cassandra’s  chest which helped her breath more easily. We woke her up and brought her back to the Museum to be on critical care watch.  Below you can see her in a warming box with oxygen being pumped in to help her.


Keepers watched her close throughout the afternoon and early evening and I spent the night with her, making sure she was ok and that her oxygen tank didn’t need changing.  Her breathing was holding steady which was great news. We were able to set up an Ultrasound appointment for her. We knew her condition was not caused by trauma, so we assumed there was some sort of chronic issue/disease with her heart.  We arrived at the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Cary Friday afternoon for Cassandra’s ultrasound appointment.

Cassandra getting an ultrasound of her heart and other organs.

Dr.  Cindy Godshalk, a veterinarian who specializes in ultrasound,  met us there and looked at Casandra’s heart and other organs. Dr. Godshalk pulled another 15 ml of fluid, but found no problems with any of Cassandra’s organs.  What a relief, but leaves us baffled as to what caused the issues.

Cassandra warming up after anesthesia

Dr. Vanderford and Suvi, the veterinary technician who helped monitor Cassandra during anesthesia, began to warm her up with this really neat blanket that blows hot air inside. It was about 7:00 Friday night when we returned to the Museum, so we kept Cassandra in her box overnight. She was hungry and ate right away.

Hungry after not eating all day!

Since Cassandra was still doing well, we decided to continue some of her medications and to move her back to the lemur exhibit with the others.  She walked into the exhibit without an issue. In fact, if  it weren’t for her shaved belly, you might not have a clue anything were of concern . (Cassandra is sitting below on a new climbing structure. Jill took some video of the lemurs climbing on it and I am sure she will post that soon).

Cassandra’s shaved belly.

I watched her for about 90 minutes. There was nothing eventful that happened (except a squirrel coming and stealing some lemur chow).

back home with the other ring-tailed lemurs

So,  after a long,  stressful, scary,  and amazing week, we are watching and monitoring and we’ll schedule Cassandra for future tests to see what we can learn. We are unsure what the future holds, but it is looking way better than it was a week ago this time!

Today, July 21, is half way through National Keeper Appreciation Week.  On this day in particular, the Keepers have my gratitude and appreciation for the amazing work they not only during difficult times, but also on the day-to-day, not-so-glorious, work-in-100 degree- heat, pouring down rain days. If you see a Keeper this week, please show your thanks- Cassandra is alive because the keepers noticed a change and acted quickly. Their speed allowed for some amazing veterinarians to work their magic.

2 responses to One week later: Cassandra the ring-tailed lemur

  1. Kristen Pormann says:

    She’s doing great! Training well and everything. It’s a mystery.

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