The Duke Lemur Center has welcomed another newborn — a rare baby aye-aye.
Christened Winifred after Bette Midler’s character Winifred Sanderson in Hocus Pocus, the infant was born to first-time mom Fady on June 24, 2020. She is the second offspring of her father, Grendel, who sired Melisandre in 2019.
Fady, Winifred’s mother, came to the Duke Lemur Center from the San Diego Zoo to join our conservation breeding program, as organized through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan. Aye-ayes are endangered in Madagascar, and there are fewer than 30 individuals within human care in the United States. Of those, 10 live at the Duke Lemur Center, where they help maintain a genetic safety net for aye-ayes in the wild.
Through her father, Nirina, Fady introduces a brand-new genetic line into the DLC’s aye-aye population. Prior to her arrival, all of the aye-ayes at the Lemur Center were descendants of the DLC’s eight founder aye-ayes. Genetic diversity is crucial, as aye-ayes in human care help form a genetic safety net for their species. The more genetically diverse a population is, the more resilient and healthy it tends to be.
“Baby lemurs bring a smile to your face and make your heart beat a little faster,” says Greg Dye, Executive Director the DLC. “But they’re also a reminder of what’s at stake. Not only does Winifred grab your heart, she underscores the importance of the Lemur Center’s work protecting aye-ayes and other lemurs from extinction. Our mission is to never know a world without them.”
Jenna Browning, Fady and Winnie’s primary caretaker, reports that although Fady is a first-time mom, she’s doing a wonderful job caring for her infant. There is always some trial and error when you’re new at motherhood—Fady did try (unsuccessfully) to pick Winifred up with her hands, for example, instead of using her mouth to carry her like most aye-aye moms do—but she’s been a careful and attentive mother, leaving her baby’s side only to eat or to gather materials to add to her nest.
“Fady is an outstanding nest builder,” says Jenna. As aye-ayes learn nest-building from their mothers, Jenna hopes that Winifred will inherit her mother’s architectural gifts.
Winifred, who seems to have inherited her mother’s curiosity, began peeping out of the nest at five weeks old. Just two weeks later, she was ready to explore the wider world. This video (below), taken on August 12, records Winnie’s very first time venturing all the way out of the nest. As you can see, she’s a strong little one—even at just seven weeks old!