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Shaq and the Mini-Shaq, the extreme primates.

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The world’s smallest primate in his hand measures only five inches and weighs two ounces, clearly dwarfed by the 7’1” 325-pound Shaq.

The world’s smallest primate in his hand measures only five inches and weighs two ounces, clearly dwarfed by the 7’1” 325-pound Shaq.

Shaquille O'Neil, one of the world's most recognizable professional basketball players has used his stature to highlight one of the world's smallest primates: the mouse lemur from Madagascar.

Shaq, an NBA legend who retired last year and earned a doctorate degree in education from Barry University in 2012, posed with a mouse lemur at Zoo Miami in March to advocate for Centre ValBio, a non-profit conservation organization based in the rainforests of Madagascar. Under the direction of primatologist Dr. Patricia Wright, Centre ValBio aims to better understand and protect the island's endangered wildlife and habitats.

National Geographic Explorer and TV Host Mireya Mayor & Shaq

National Geographic Explorer and TV Host Mireya Mayor & Shaq

Fuggles the lemur was on loan from the Duke Lemur Center in North Carolina, traveling down to Florida with two handlers and copious supplies of mealworms. Both institutions - Centre ValBio and Duke Lemur Center - are doing excellent work with the people of Madagascar to preserve endangered species habitat through education and economic development. CVB has also built a research facility there.

Shaq was joined by Dr. Mireya Mayor, an author and National Geographic Explorer & TV Host who focuses on primates.

Mireya Mayor and <em>Microcebus mittermier</em> in 2000

Mireya Mayor and Microcebus mittermier in 2000

Mayor has been working in Madagascar since 1997 and has been involved in primate conservation for over 15 years. The idea to photograph one of the world’s largest primates (Shaq) with the world’s smallest came to her when she looked at a National Geographic photograph taken of her and a mouse lemur she co-discovered in northern Madagascar in 2000 (Microcebus mittermieri).

Shaq flexes his muscle for Centre ValBio & the wildlife of Madagascar.

Shaq flexes his muscle for Centre ValBio & the wildlife of Madagascar.

All photos by Ron Magill.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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