'Zoboomafoo' star Jovian the lemur has died


When you were a kid, you probably watched some PBS in your time. If your formative years were specifically during the 1990s and early 2000s, as mine were, there's one name you'll never forget: Zoboomafoo.

Zoboomafoo was the titular lemur star of the PBS kids' show that also starred brothers Chris and Martin Kratt as they taught us all about the wonders of wildlife. Sadly, Jovian, the Coquerel's sifaka lemur who portrayed Zoboomafoo died of kidney failure Nov. 10 at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, N.C. He was 20 years old.

Zoboomafoo ran for 65 episodes on PBS from 1999 to 2001. In each episode, the Kratt Brothers would explore wildlife according to a certain theme, such as water creatures, legs or swimming. Zoboomafoo, or Zoboo for short, was their trusty sidekick who climbed trees and hopped around their Animal Junction home to provide some cuteness to the show. Zoboomafoo sometimes switched out Jovian for a rather convincing puppet lemur who talked to the Kratt Brothers in a wacky voice, as you do when you're on a children's show.

When the Kratt Brothers created the show for PBS, they knew they wanted to use real footage of a lemur, in addition to the puppet. They came to Duke Lemur Center, where Martin Kratt had volunteered while studying zoology at Duke, according to News & Observer. The Kratts auditioned several groups of lemurs in 1997 before choosing Jovian and his parents Nigel and Flavia to star.

"You can probably see all three of them on the show, but Jovian was the star," Martin Kratt said on the Duke Lemur Center's blog, according to News & Observer. "He was young and good-looking and very gentle."

Jovian was a bit of a celebrity at the Duke Lemur Center, drawing crowds and appearing on merchandise.

"Every time we would bring up Zoboomafoo, a smile would go up from those who remembered," the center's education specialist Chris Smith told News & Observer.

For those feeling nostalgic and in need of a good cry, someone uploaded a ton of full episodes of Zoboomafoo onto YouTube. Watching some of these old clips back as an adult, you can't help but think how cheesy Zoboomafoo seems now. But how great was it that the mascot of this show was a lemur? You usually saw more conventional animals like dogs, cats and bears. There weren't too many "exotic" animals like this as the face of kids' TV at the time. This was long before Madagascar's King Julien made lemurs cool.

Jovian was a trailblazer, and we thank him for introducing us to a whole new world we may have never knew of before. "Me and you and Zoboomafoo" forever.

Image: PBS

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