DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- The birth of baby lemur Ranomasina is extra special.
"This is not just any baby," says Bobby Schopler, a veterinarian at the Duke Lemur Center since 2005. "This is the most important birth in the 13 years I've worked here."
According to Duke University, baby Ranomasina is the third blue-eyed black lemur born at the center this season, which brings the total number of her kind in North America to 34.
She is also considered among the most "genetically valuable," since she is the offspring of the first lemurs imported from Madagascar to the U.S. in 24 years.
Ranomasina is also unusual because she was delivered via cesarean section, a surgery so rare that since the Duke Lemur Center's founding in 1966, C-sections have been performed only 15 times.
"She's the most important offspring from one of the rarest lemur species," Schopler said. "She was born to a pair that took us three years to bring to Durham from Madagascar, and we may never be able to import anymore."
Duke also noted that Ranomasina is so genetically valuable to the population of these critically endangered lemurs that when she was discovered in breech position, veterinarians resolved to perform a rare C-section rather than risk a difficult and potentially fatal birth.
The C-section was performed on April 12, and now Ranomasina is growing.
"This female infant has a huge responsibility in front of her," Schopler said, but for the next 2.5 years she'll grow and learn from her mother before being paired with a male to start a family of her own.