Name: Alex Dunkel
Username: Maky — translation from Malagasy: "ring-tailed lemur"
Year of birth: 1976
- B.S. Ecology, Ethology, & Evolution (UIUC, 1998)
- M.S. Library & Information Science (UIUC, 2000)
- A.S. Exotic Animal Training & Management (Moorpark College, 2008)
Residence: Thousand Oaks, CA
Blog: Lemur Life – Lemur stories, past and present.
Edit Counts: enWiki CommonsWiki
If you want to understand me, you'll need to understand lemurs. My life is centered around these amazing strepsirrhine primates. I am working on an independent study of their behavior in my spare time, and, as you may have noticed, I write high-quality Wikipedia articles about them in order to expand my own knowledge and share with others. I am a graduate of the Exotic Animal Training & Management program at Moorpark College and dream of running a lemur conservation facility. I have been volunteering at zoos, conservation centers, and with outreach programs for many years. These places include the Gibbon Conservation Center, Santa Barbara Zoo, America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, and many more. Most recently, I was a seasonal keeper at Zoo Atlanta and a full-time caretaker at a primate sanctuary in southern Texas.
I am currently taking a break from the exotic animal industry to get away from unnecessary oxytocin-induced drama and the unethical behavior that results. Someday I hope to return. But for now, I've coincidentally returned to the Moorpark area, where I'm training primates (juvenile Homo sapiens in indoor rock climbing). This also brings me closer to the Moorpark lemurs, the inspiration for my lemur passion. I plan to stay close to them for the remainder of their lives... probably another one to five years.
On Wikipedia, one of my goals is to update all of the lemur pages to the best of my ability. I have numerous contacts in the field of lemur research and conservation. I have been collaborating with a few researchers, and hope to make contact with more to further enrich the content of Wiki. I am always looking for high-quality, hi-resolution images, video, and audio of lemurs (all species), ideally from their natural habitat.
From October through December 2009, I volunteered with Azafady's Lemur Venture program in Madagascar, assisting with lemur research. Azafady's work is aimed at saving lemur species from extinction and helping impoverished Malagasy communities live healthier, sustainable lives. My participation with this organization was a very exciting opportunity for me.
When I decided to change careers from computer support and go back to the field of biology, in which I got my degree, I decided I wanted to work outdoors and do more manual work... ideally at a zoo! While participating in the Exotic Animal Training & Management program at America's Teaching Zoo, I managed to get assigned to work with a male ring-tailed lemur named Obi. (His stud book name is officially "Lenny.") Ironically, when I first arrived at the zoo, primates were the only animals I did not want to work with. I knew little about lemurs, and after watching them, I decided that since primates were a required animal assignment, lemurs wouldn't be too bad. Leading up to the time of animal assignments, I quickly went from simply preferring the lemurs to wanting to be assigned to the lemurs above all other animals at the zoo. My love for lemurs started there... and has continued to grow since.
|Obi (left) and Janga (right) sunning together.
At the teaching zoo, the primate instructor encouraged the students to be mindful of their actions around their assigned primate because the animal would interpret the behaviors outside of human social context. Forming a close, professional bond with the animal was encouraged, and involved slowly developing trust. Until that time, the instructor did not think the behavioral precautions and the process of building a trust relationship had as much meaning for the zoo's two lemurs, especially since Obi was notoriously aggressive and Janga (formally "Mahajanga"), the other (female) ring-tailed lemur, wanted little to do with people. However, I took the opportunity as a challenge, and because Obi took a liking to me early on, I was able to build a very strong relationship in a matter of a couple weeks (rather than several months). Wanting to be treated as a member of the lemur troop, I began to mimic some of their vocalizations and behaviors when around them, trying to learn the proper context and general meaning.
Within a month, I was sunning with the lemurs when my busy schedule permitted. Although Janga was abnormally aggressive towards me, she too treated me like a lemur... a male lemur, who is supposed to be submissive. Needless to say, there was a lot of conflict between her and me, particularly during feeding (since I controlled the food). I can't explain the full details of the relationship I had with these two lemurs and the amazing behaviors I witnessed in only a couple of paragraphs, but I can say with confidence that I was treated as a troop member, especially by the end of the year-long assignment. I sunned with them, was groomed by them, took naps next to them, and was even greeted by them in traditional ring-tailed lemur fashion (with a nose touch). They even taught me how to say good-bye. From these experiences, I made the fateful decision to specialize on lemurs—a very job-limiting decision. However, I have no regrets. All of my volunteer and Wiki work is done out of respect for Obi and Janga. They were my teachers, friends, and troop.
In memory of Janga
On 27 November 2014, Janga was put down due to quality of life issues pertaining to her recently diagnosed diabetes. A later necropsy revealed masses on her liver and pancreas. She was 17 years old. (I published a small bit of her life and our history on my blog.) This special lemur was part my inspiration for writing the lemur articles that probably brought you to my page. She was my queen, and the pain of her loss will always feel fresh. Please think of her when you read my work, and also keep Obi in your heart.
Work in Progress:
|Obi, a trusted member of Maky's lemur troop, scent marks the numerous lemur articles while Maky busily works on the re-writes.
I still plan to write all the sub-articles for the Lemur article, but they will take time. The list includes:
Likewise, the re-re-write of the Ring-tailed lemur article will also take time, especially given the number of highly detailed sources and extensive research I now have better access to. In fact, I will probably need to write sub-articles for this one as well. Furthermore, the subfossil lemur articles are the most likely for me to work on, since they will be relatively short and because I'm determined to make that my first featured topic. Otherwise, here is a list of the lemur articles that are scheduled to receive much-needed attention as I get back into the swing of things:
- re-vamp Ring-tailed lemur (bringing it back up to FA standards)
- Madame Berthe's mouse lemur (world's smallest primate)
- re-write popular and semi-developed articles:
- Aye-aye / Giant aye-aye
- Diademed sifaka
- Red-bellied lemur
- Coquerel's sifaka
- Verreaux's sifaka
- species listed in the "Top 25 Most Endangered Primates"
- Greater bamboo lemur
- Gray-headed lemur
- Blue-eyed black lemur
- Northern sportive lemur
- subfossil lemur articles
Archaeoindris (largest extinct lemur) ✓ Done
- Koala lemur
Pachylemur ✓ Done
- Sloth lemur
- Monkey lemur
- species kept in captivity
- most Eulemur
- Fat-tailed dwarf lemur
Giant mouse lemur ✓ Done
- re-vamp Ruffed lemur / Black-and-white ruffed lemur / Red ruffed lemur
Note: All lemur articles will eventually be developed and promoted to FA status. The articles above may also be written in a more random order for the sake of variety. As always, check back here for updates.