Aye-aye

Rare Baby Aye-aye Not So Spooky

Aye-aye 2016 (c) ZSL Tony Bates (3)Sporting a crooked finger, piercing yellow eyes, and coming out only after dark, some might think this baby Aye-aye at ZSL London Zoo was custom-made for Halloween.  But the baby’s arrival is a rare event that will benefit efforts to conserve this unique species. 

The baby Aye-aye, born on August 1, is a first for ZSL London Zoo.  Named Malcolm, the infant emerged from its secluded nest box for the first time last week. 

Aye-aye 2016 (c) ZSL Tony Bates (4)Photo Credit:  Tony Bates/ZSL London Zoo

Aye-ayes, which are a species of Lemur, have an unusually large middle finger and are considered harbingers of doom in their native Madagascar.  Legend has it that if an aye-aye points its long finger at you, death is not far away.  In reality, Aye-ayes use the elongated digit to forage for tasty beetle larvae from inside trees.

Aye-ayes are solitary and nocturnal, so their habits are difficult to observe.  They eat, sleep, and mate high in the trees.   

Found only in Madagascar, Aye-ayes are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Like all species in Madagascar, they face enormous pressure from human activity, such as deforestation and agriculture.  Due to the belief that Aye-ayes portend doom, they are often killed by villagers.  Only about 50 Aye-ayes live in zoos worldwide.


Aye-Aye Aye!

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Late last year, on November 29, The Duke Lemur Center welcomed, Elphaba, a baby Aye-aye. There have been 28 total Aye-aye births at the Lemur Center starting with the first in 1992. Elphaba weighed in at 586g just five days ago (pictured above at her exam). Little Elphaba is growing like a weed. Below are pictures of Elphaba back in late November at just three days old.

According to the Duke Lemur Center's page about Aye-aye Lemurs:

"Due to its bizarre appearance and unusual feeding habits, the Aye-aye is considered by many to be the strangest primate in the world. It is the world’s largest nocturnal primate. Unusual physical characteristics include incisors that are continually growing (unique among primates), extremely large ears, and a middle finger which is skeletal in appearance, and is used by the animal as a primary sensory organ."

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Photo credits: David Haring / Duke Lemur Center

"Since a significant percentage of an aye-aye’s diet consists of insect larvae that dwell inside dead or living trees, the animals have evolved a specialized method for locating the larvae. As they walk along a branch, the animals continuously and rapidly tap it with their middle finger. Cupping their huge ears forward, the aye-aye listens intently to the echoing sounds coming from the tapped tree. When the sound indicates they are above an insect tunnel, the animals begin to tear off enormous chunks of the outer bark with their impressive teeth, until the insect tunnel is revealed. Then the aye-aye inserts its slender and highly flexible third finger into the hole, and when the prey is located, it is hooked with the tip of the finger and removed."


Smeagol! (the Aye-aye)

Meet Smeagol, the Philadelphia Zoo's new baby Aye-aye, named after the less than handsome character from the Lord of the Rings. These strange lemurs are the world's largest nocturnal primate and, despite their Gollum-like looks, they are shy and gentle. Born July 14, to the zoo’s female, named Medusa, it's a healthy 105g baby boy.

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Photo Credits: Courtesy of Philadelphia Zoo

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Second Aye-Aye Ever Born in North America

Aye-aye's are primitive primates native only to Madagascar like their lemur cousins. Highly endangered, the Denver Zoo's new baby aye-aye is only the second ever born in North America and the first conceived in North America.


Aye aye on back

Baby aye aye crawling
Photo credits: Dave Parsons, The Denver Zoo

This video is definitely worth watching


The world's largest nocturnal primate, the aye-aye's strange looks and habits have led local villagers to consider them bad omens and kill them on site. However, aye-aye's are gentle creatures that use their long fingers to extract ants, termites and other insects out of holes in trees.

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