Remembering a Childhood Legend


The Life of Jovian, Lemur Star of Zobomafoo.

Jovian the lemur passed away on November 11, 2014 at the Duke Lemur Center. The Coquerel’s sifaka lemur host of Zobomafoo was 20 years old.

Born in 1994 at the Duke Lemur Center, Jovian was always athletic, constantly bounding about his enclosure. This athleticism is what gave him his big break. Since Zobomafoo was a kid’s show, its star had to be as high-energy and enthusiastic as its viewers. Jovian, and his parents, Nigel and Flavia, were ideal candidates. All three of them were featured in the show, but Jovian was the star. From 1999 to 2001, the show delighted many children across America, and even when it was cancelled, episodes ran until about 2004.

Fans of Zoboomafoo may take comfort in knowing that the children’s TV icon lived longer than most lemurs do in the wild. At the age of 20, he certainly outlived the typical life expectancy of 15 years old. He was generally in good health, until this year when his keepers noticed that he was not as vibrant as usual. His health began to decline, until eventually, kidney failure resulted in his demise.

Jovian is survived by his 7 living children and 4 grandchildren.

Now, you may ask why I am writing an obituary about a lemur that hosted a show that was cancelled over a decade ago. But Jovian — Zoboomafoo — was more than just a lemur, and more than just a TV show host. He was a representation of childhood for many American children, including me. And his death is a reminder that that childhood is gone.
When I was younger, Saturday mornings were a time to eat mini blueberry muffins and watch Zoboomafoo. I had no psets, no papers, no meetings, and no hangover. It was just me, my muffins, and an adorable lemur teaching me about wildlife. I don’t remember the exact facts about wildlife that I learned, but I remember always being enthusiastic and excited whenever Zoboomafoo came on. In fact, I remember trying to be a lemur by bouncing around the living room and jumping between pieces of furniture. Zoboomafoo was carefree, and so was I.

Eventually, though, I, and the rest of my generation, grew out of Zoboomafoo. Instead of tuning into PBS Kids on Saturday mornings, I had sports events. And homework. By high school, if I didn’t have a game on Saturday morning, I was trying to catch up on sleep that I had lost throughout the week. At Harvard, if I’m awake at all on Saturday, I go to meetings or try to tackle the seemingly endless mountain of assignments that are due the following week. It seems like there is no longer time to jump around the living room and pretend to be like the lemur on TV.
Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised that over the years, I’ve garnered more responsibilities. Everyone has to grow up sometime, right? Everyone has to become responsible eventually. Sometimes, though, having responsibilities makes us forget that having fun is important too.

When I heard the news of Jovian’s death, it had been a long time since I had even thought about Zaboomafoo, and how much joy that show used to give me. This nostalgia caused me to reflect. Just because the generation of Zaboomafoo watchers has grown up and moved on, does not mean we should forget about the enthusiasm that Zaboomafoo brought us. Rather, we should remember this enthusiasm, harness it, and take on life, bounding from branch to branch, just like Jovian did in the Animal Junction.

Caroline Gentile (cgentile@college) will be wearing black for the next month.