Aye-aye

RARE AYE-AYE BORN AT THE DUKE LEMUR CENTER

EDSHPDSC6945Photos 1, 3, and 4 by David Haring. Photo 2 by Sara Clark.

Meet Melisandre, a rare baby aye-aye born at the Duke Lemur Center on August 13, 2019!

The daughter of 23-year-old Ardrey and 9-year-old Grendel, “Mel” is one of nine aye-ayes at the DLC and one of only 25 of her kind in the United States. She is Ardrey’s sixth infant and Grendel’s first.

Melisandra weighed 81 grams on her first weighing on August 14. Although her birthweight was lower than average, Mel’s keeper, Matt Cuskelly, observed that despite her small size she seemed bright, alert, and strong.

Ardrey is an experienced, attentive mother who spends most of her time inside her nest with her infant. And Melisandre is thriving: By August 16, she’d grown to 98 grams; and on August 27, she tipped the scales at 210 grams. (Way to go, Ardrey!)

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Nocturnal primates with bushy tails and bony middle fingers, aye-ayes are endangered on their native island of Madagascar, where 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 are killed on sight.

In reality, says DLC curator Cathy Williams, the aye-aye is one of the gentlest lemur species. “They’re not at all aggressive, they’re extremely curious and energetic and they’re very intelligent — they learn very quickly.”

Melisandre’s parents Ardrey and Grendel were deemed a good genetic match by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan. Her grandparents — Morticia and Poe (Ardrey) and Endora and Nosferatu (Grendel) — are the first aye-ayes ever imported to the United States.

When Poe and Nosferatu arrived at Duke from Madagascar in 1987, they represented the only aye-ayes in the world within human care. Morticia and Endora arrived in 1991.

Today, all but one of the aye-ayes in North America — as well as others overseas in London, Frankfurt, Bristol, and the Jersey Channel Islands — are descendants of these eight founders.

Melisandre will stay with Ardrey for two to three years while she learns how to forage for food, build a nest and other aye-aye survival skills.

Visitors won’t be able to see the new infant, but they can see her 36-year-old grandmother, Endora. Just be sure to book a tour before visiting.

In the meantime, the Duke Lemur Center works diligently to maintain a genetic safety net for aye-ayes in the wild. Together, aye-ayes at the DLC and other institutions worldwide form a genetic safety net for their species, and each new birth helps sustain a healthy and genetically diverse population of aye-ayes for the long-term future.

If you want to learn more about aye-ayes AND help support their care and conservation, please consider symbolically adopting Agatha, an aye-aye born at the DLC in 2017, through the DLC’s Adopt a Lemur Program! Your adoption goes toward the $8,400 per year cost it takes to care for each lemur at the DLC, as well as aiding our conservation efforts in Madagascar. You’ll also receive quarterly updates and photos, making this a fun, educational gift that keeps giving all year long! Please visit our Adopt a Lemur homepage to learn more.

To learn more about the DLC’s aye-ayes, visit our Meet the Lemurs webpage.

VIDEO! To watch a video of Melisandre taken on September 19, please click here or on the screenshot below to be redirected to the DLC’s YouTube channel. We love her bright, beautiful eyes!

 


Rare Baby Aye-aye Debuts at Denver Zoo

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Denver Zoo was one of the first zoos in North America to care for Aye-ayes and is home to three of the only 24 Aye-ayes in the U.S. The Zoo’s newest Aye-aye, Tonks, who was born on August 8, has now emerged from the nest box and is starting to actively explore her habitat.

Visitors will be able to see Tonks, along with her mom, Bellatrix, and dad, Smeagol, in their exhibit in Emerald Forest at Denver Zoo.

However, seeing these elusive, nocturnal lemurs isn’t always easy. Lead Primate Keeper Becky Sturges offered the following three tips for visitors to help spot the Aye-aye family in the Zoo’s exhibit:

Visit Early…and Late: The best times to spot the Aye-ayes is soon after the Zoo opens around 10:30 a.m. and late in the afternoon, when Tonks tends to play and explore to burn off her last amount of energy before bedtime. Let Your Eyes Adjust: Spend at least five minutes letting your eyes adjust to the darkness in the exhibit and keep cell phone lights off. Look Up: Tonks is very adventurous and likes to explore the entire habitat, but she tends to spend more time on branches in the higher areas.”

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3_Tonks1_EditedPhoto Credits: Denver Zoo

Aye-ayes are (Daubentonia madagascariensis) a rare species of lemur that are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are native only to remote parts of Madagascar. They are also one of the most distinctive looking animals on the planet due to a number of unique adaptations, including coarse dark hair, long bushy tails, rodent-like teeth, piercing eyes and skeletal hands that feature extra-long middle fingers with hooked claws. Aye-ayes are born weighing just a few ounces and reach up to 5 lbs. as adults. They have been known to live up to about 20 years.

For more information about Tonks and Denver Zoo’s history with Aye-aye, visit the Zoo’s website: https://www.denverzoo.org/zootales/what-does-it-take-for-a-baby-aye-aye-to-survive-and-thrive/


Rare Baby Aye-aye Born at Denver Zoo

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Denver Zoo welcomed a rare baby Aye-aye and is now home to three of these unusual creatures. With only 24 residing in seven zoos in the United States and an unknown number in the wild, Aye-ayes are among the rarest animals in the world. The new baby, a female, is named Tonks and was born on August 8.

Tonks, who was born to mom Bellatrix and dad Smeagol, is healthy and thriving; however, her first days were worrying for Denver Zoo’s animal care staff and veterinarians.

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AyeAye_2_EditedPhoto Credit: Denver Zoo

“We noticed that Bellatrix wasn’t showing typical mothering behaviors, so we decided to step in to give Tonks some supportive care,” said Lead Primate Keeper Becky Sturges. “We provided 24-hour care for the first week and had to teach Bellatrix how to nurse, but now she is nursing well and Tonks has gained a lot of weight. Now we’re just monitoring them to make sure things continue to go well.”

Aye-ayes are born weighing just a few ounces, grow to a weight of five pounds as adults, and live up to 20 years.

Tonks is still in the nest box with Bellatrix and is not expected to emerge for a few more months, so she is not yet visible to zoo guests.

Aye-ayes have a distinctive appearance, thanks to a number of unique adaptations including coarse dark hair, a long bushy tail, rodent-like teeth, large eyes, and bony hands that feature extra-long middle fingers. The middle fingers are used to tap on tree branches and locate hollow spaces that may contain grubs. After chewing a hole in the branch, the grubs are extracted using the clawed fingertips.

Aye-ayes are classified as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species and are found only in remote parts of Madagascar. They were thought to be extinct in 1933, but were rediscovered in 1957. Their odd appearance caused Aye-ayes to be labeled as harbingers of death in Madagascan traditional cultures, and the animals were often killed on sight. The dramatic loss of Madagascar’s original forest cover has also contributed to Aye-ayes’ Endangered status.


Endangered Aye-Aye Born at Duke Lemur Center

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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.”

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4_DSC2756EDSHP2_Dm-7279-agatha-675x540_cPhoto Credits: Duke Lemur Center / David Haring

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.”

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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.


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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.

Continue reading "Second Aye-Aye Ever Born in North America " »