The South Carolina Aquarium is betting that adorable ring-tailed lemurs, a panther chameleon and other exotic critters will make for a popular new attraction when Madagascar Journey opens in early May.

Lemurs are a popular draw at aquariums and zoos — kids know them from animated films, such as “Madagascar” and “Dinosaur” — but the exhibit also has a serious side, with a look at illegal logging practices that threaten the biodiverse island of Madagascar.

“This is essentially the first step in our 10-year master plan to have a more global reach at our aquarium,” spokeswoman Kate Dittloff said. “We want to diversify our collection.”

Madagascar Journey is considered a temporary exhibit, but it will be at the aquarium for three years, occupying 20 percent of the aquarium’s exhibit space.

“It’s going to be our largest temporary exhibit to date, over 12 years,” Dittloff said.

Workers have demolished the aquarium’s Camp Carolina and Toddler Cove areas to make way for Madagascar Journey, and construction is ongoing.

Aquarium President Kevin Mills said the exhibit will cost about $250,000, with most of the work being done in-house.

“Our staff is so tremendously talented, and they’ve been working hard to make this happen,” he said.

MeadWestVaco, or MWV as it’s now know, is the primary sponsor of the exhibit, which will include displays about sustainable forestry. The lemurs will arrive this month, on loan from the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, N.C., in plenty of time to get acclimated before the exhibit opens.

The exhibit will be included in the aquarium’s regular ticket pricing.