Say hello to Voltaire the collared lemur! Voltaire was born here at LCF on April 2, 2021 to first time parents Isabelle and Olivier. Affectionately known as ‘Terry’ this little boy took no time sneaking his way into the hearts of the LCF staff.
As Terry began venturing off of mom and exploring his surroundings, staff noticed he had difficulty jumping between branches that would normally be no problem for another lemur. Suspecting bad eyesight, the LCF team kept a close eye on this little boy throughout the summer and fall of 2021.
Unfortunately, as Terry continued to grow, so did his eyesight trouble. By eight months old Terry had difficulty seeing objects placed directly in front of him. LCF’s veterinarian Dr. David Holifield was consulted regularly to track the progression of Terry’s degenerative eye disease.
Thanks to the gracious support of our followers this past #GivingTuesday, we were able to consult with a veterinary ophthalmologist regarding Terry’s eyesight. Dr. Anja Welihozkiy of Blue Pearl Pet Hospital in Sarasota, FL examined Voltaire in January and confirmed his blindness. After consulting with fellow experts, she diagnosed Voltaire with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia.
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (ONH) is the under-development or absence of the optic nerve combined with possible brain and endocrine abnormalities. Human children with ONH may have brain malformations and pituitary problems. The hypothalamus at the base of the brain is frequently abnormal. This is not usually visible on MRI scan. However, in the majority of patients, this results in abnormal function of the pituitary gland because of its control over the pituitary.
At this time, Terry has not shown any additional signs or symptoms of this disease. He does maintain a small amount of sight, enough to distinguish light and shadow. The LCF team have developed a number of accommodations for Voltaire, including not moving items in his enclosure and an increased use of audio cues to inform him where the keepers are and what they are doing (ex: feeding, cleaning, etc.).
Despite all of his challenges, Voltaire hasn’t slowed down. In fact, he behaves so normally for his age that a general observer likely wouldn’t notice anything different about him. There are a lot of unknowns in Terry’s future, but we can confidently say we will continue to offer him the best care possible.