The local "adventure zoo", for want of a better description, has everything from bats to binturongs, penguins to Fennec foxes. We've been quite a few times. The path is woven in, coiled like the fat python that greets you at the entrance. The Long Man stands guard on the nearby downs.
Their figurehead creature for the attraction is the ring-tailed lemur, sporting a tail like a pulse, reverberating between shadow and mist. This time around, I caught the Latin name for the animal - "lemur catta". Ghost cat. The eyes on the poster stared back at me, yellow and questioning like an old newspaper cutting.
Latin names have a strange perception. A lost language, always cited in italics, holding some power over us merely through its legacy exoticism. Proper name vs common name. An air of trust. You can call an animal whatever you want, but this will forever be just a nickname, and it will always have a singular, dedicated Latin name. Truth through history.
What is it like to be designated a "ghost cat" as a species, despite being neither? Defined in terms of the dead and the domestic, the forgotten and the feline. A foreign species, famed for its nine lives - somehow, the lemur exists in a world beyond this, mocking the order of reincarnation through the ultimate, hollowed reincarnation. A ghost has one and no life, all and nothing, in the same space of breath.
The Roman Festival of Lemuria was a rite of exorcism and the release of spirits, and saw incantations being repeated nine times, starting on the ninth of May. Would the lemur of today, with its basic arithmetic cognisance, be amused at this parallel with the lives of the cats it supposes to mimic?
"As of early 2017, the population in the wild is believed to have crashed as low as 2,000 individuals due to habitat loss, poaching and hunting" - Wikipedia