Mowgli the ring-tailed lemur settles into Seeley after move from Oklahoma
He is believed to be one of 3,000 in captivity in the world
February 16, 2023
Mowgli, a hand-raised, ring-tailed lemur is making a new home for himself in Seeley Lake.
Mowgli belongs to Jenn and Chuck Kaiser, who recently moved to Seeley Lake from Oklahoma where they had a pet store and exotic animal traveling zoo.
Jenn explained that Mowgli is also a licensed support animal for Kaiser to help with PTSD and has "never met anyone he didn't like."
Mowgli was born November 2021 at the Kaiser's USDA licensed exotic animal farm. His parents were not socialized by their previous owners, Jenn said, so the Kaisers separated Mowgli at two months old in order to socialize him as a pet. Lemurs have been known to get aggressive if unsocialized, Jenn explained.
Hand-feeding Mowgli and taking him to work with her helped with socialization and bonding as a family, Jenn said, adding that as primates, lemurs are very intelligent and need interaction and stimulation.
In the Kaiser's home, Mowgli uses the spare bedroom as a play room when he's not with Jenn or in his cage in the living room. In the summer, Jenn puts a retractable leash on Mowgli and he can climb the trees and run around outside.
Mowgli eats fruits, vegetables, spring mix lettuce, blueberries, kiwi and commercial monkey biscuits that contain his vitamins and minerals. Jenn noted that he likes to watch comedy and listen to the people laugh on television.
When Mowgli is content he purrs, she described.
Mowgli is neutered and weighs three pounds now, he may gain another pound or two as he matures. Lemurs live to be 15 to 20 years old in captivity.
Jenn grew up with the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park in her backyard and spent a lot of time there, taking classes and interning. When the pet store opportunity came along, it was a natural step. Pet store work led to buying, selling and transporting exotic animals for public and private zoos from Tennessee to Texas to Nebraska. The Kaisers had water buffalo, bison, exotic cattle, parrots, zebras, reptiles, lemurs, kangaroos, exotic fish, tortoises, rhea, monkeys, lemurs and many other species.
"We bought the pet store and then my boss at the car dealership where I worked wanted us to bring a petting zoo to the car lot monthly," said Kaiser. "We got the farm animals in addition to the pet store animals and corral panels and that started our traveling zoo."
Taking in injured wildlife was another aspect of their animal work.
"My kids will never think of wild animals as less than a gift after their experience taking care of the wild animals they took in for rehab," said Kaiser.
"The zoo work was special to me because of the educational factor - there's something different about seeing animals in the flesh," said Kaiser. "Many people will not be able to see wild exotic animals. A zoo gives them a chance."
"Once I saw the biggest orangutan I had ever seen in a zoo. It was sitting beside the thick glass window. As I walked up, it put its hand on the glass, and I put my hand over it. We 'held hands' through the glass," remembered Kaiser. "When I got home I looked up orangutans and found out why they are endangered. It was very eye-opening."
The Kaisers feel that there is a lot of misinformation about exotic animals in the movies and literature. Showing people what the animal really is, was one of their motivations for their work.
"With our traveling zoo I hoped that meeting an animal might spark someone's interest," said Kaiser. "Then they might go home to find out more about it, and be more aware about what the animal's life is like."
Ring-tailed lemurs are the most endangered group of mammals with fewer than 2,500 living wild in Madagascar. There are now fewer ring-tailed lemurs living in the wild than there are living in zoos around the world. Yet there are close to 3,000 in captivity, according to endangeredspecies.org
Mowgli was bred and raised at their exotic animal farm under their USDA license so Kaiser is able to maintain ownership. Montana is one of 19 U.S. states to allow lemurs as pets. Exotic animals used for breeding, selling or for paid exhibition require a USDA licensed owner.
"The best part about having exotic animals is feeling like I'm doing something that the rest of the world isn't," said Kaiser.