Daubentonia madagascariensis, better known as the aye-aye, is certainly a strange looking creature. From its long fingers, raccoon-shaped face, all the way down to its raccoon-esque tail that is larger than its body, there are few animals that look this unique. To put it in perspective, the head and body measure 14-17 inches (36-43 centimeters) long on average while the tail will grow anywhere from 22-24 inches (56-61 centimeters). Weighing around 4-6 pounds (2-3 kg), they are not a particularly heavy species. They are however, the largest nocturnal primates (a subspecies of lemur in fact) in the world and live 10-23 years.
An aye-aye can only be found on the eastern side of the island Madagascar. They normally live in jungle and forested areas as well as bamboo thickets. They are one of the few species of primate that hunts, travels, and lives alone. Aye-ayes will spend most of their time (around 80 percent) in trees, hunting at night and sleeping in their nest during the day. They build their nests in the forks of large trees, providing only a single entry hole. The nests are ball-shaped and made out of leaves and branches.
Aye-ayes are omnivores, and will eat things like nectar, seeds, fruits, insect grubs, coconut plantations and even fungi. Their long middle finger is used for both locating and retrieving their prey. The aye-aye first listens for wood-boring insect larvae by tapping on tress with its middle finger. Once its food has been located it will then gnaw a hole in the wood and use its long middle finger to fish it out. This unique method of hunting makes the aye-aye the only known primate to use echolocation. Its middle finger is even used to find the level of milk in coconuts.
Mating for the aye-aye can take place any time of the year. When mating, the male and female both hang upside down and the whole process takes about an hour. A female will usually give birth to a single offspring after a gestation period of approximately 165 days. The mother will nurse its young for about seven months at which point it is ready to eat more solid foods. A female will have a 2-3 year interval before it gives birth again, making repopulation a slow process.
The aye-aye is an endangered species, with few left in the world. Because of this they are now protected by law and at least 16 reserve areas have been setup throughout Madagascar. However, aye-ayes have been given a bad reputation by many of the locals as harbingers of death and are therefore killed on site. This is a strange reputation as aye-ayes have been known to walk right past and ignore humans altogether. Still, with enough hard work, there is a chance that the aye-aye can survive well into the future. After all, an animal this unique deserves both our respect and protection.
“Aye-Aye” 4 November 2010
“Aye-Aye” 4 November 2010
“Presenting the Aye-Aye” 4 November 2010