The Duke Lemur Center recently welcomed an endangered baby Aye-aye. The female is the first Aye-aye born at the Duke Lemur Center in six years, and she is one of only 24 of her kind in the United States.
Third-time mom, Medusa, gave birth on June 7, and the infant has been named “Agatha” after prolific mystery writer, Agatha Christie.
Mother and baby have been kept behind the scenes, giving Agatha a chance to gain strength. Born weighing a mere 74 grams, Agatha was only two thirds the typical birth weight for her species so early care was given round-the-clock.
Cathy Williams (Veterinarian at the Duke Lemur Center for 21 years) stated in a Duke Lemur Center article: “Agatha was a unique case. She required intervention by the veterinary staff to provide supplemental warmth and formula until she gained enough strength that she could return to her mom full time.”
Between feedings, veterinary staff used a “baby cam” to monitor interactions between Agatha and Medusa. The staff reports that the big-eared infant, now three months old, is thriving. According to Steve Coombs, Agatha’s primary technician, “She’s tapping branches. She sleeps with Medusa in the nest box, and the interaction I see is mostly nursing. She’s calm, and Medusa is back to her easygoing self.”
The Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a lemur that is native to Madagascar. It combines rodent-like teeth that perpetually grow and a special thin middle finger.
It is known as the world's largest nocturnal primate, and is characterized by its unusual method of finding food. The Aye-aye taps on trees to find grubs, then gnaws holes in the wood using its forward slanting incisors to create a small hole in which it inserts its narrow middle finger to pull the grubs out. This foraging method is called “percussive foraging.” The only other animal species known to find food in this way is the Striped Possum.
The Aye-aye is currently classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Logging, slash-and-burn agriculture, and hunting are suspected to have cut their numbers in half in recent decades.
Some villagers in Madagascar believe these lemurs are evil omens and can curse a person by pointing their middle fingers at them; hence many Aye-ayes in their native territory are killed on sight. According to Cathy Williams from Duke Lemur Center, “They’re not at all aggressive, they’re extremely curious and energetic and they’re very intelligent. They learn very quickly.”