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Science

Species Spotlight

Aye-aye

Aye-aye: Must-knows

Scientific name: Daubentonia madagascariensis

Classification: Mammalia

Size: 4½-6½lb, 14-17in

Where they live: Madagascar

What they eat: Ramy seeds, insect larvae, nectar, fruit

Population: Unknown

Breeding in the wild: One infant every 2-3 years

Lifespan: 20 years

Predators: Humans, fossas

Threat: Endangered

Daubentonia madagascariensis
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Names: Aye-aye or long-fingered lemur (Daubentonia madagascariensis)

Size: At 4½ to 6½ pounds, these guys are roughly the weight of a gaming laptop – you wouldn’t want to lug them around indefinitely! They grow 14 to 17 inches long, and not far off double that if you count their bushy tails. 

Favourite hangout: Madagascar, their island home, which is off the coast of Africa. They can be found everywhere from mountains to coast, in mangroves, in dry scrub and deciduous forests, and in rainforest. Being nocturnal, aye-ayes spend their days dozing in ball-shaped nests in tree forks and vine tangles. Sounds lovely! 😊

Aye-ayes are rarely spotted
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Favourite snack: Ramy tree seeds, fruit, nectar, and insect larvae. They detect larvae by tapping trees with their long, super-skinny middle finger and listening for cavities where they might be. Then they bore holes in the wood with their teeth and those amazing skeletal fingers come in handy once more to scoop the bugs out!

Love language: Females feel the urge every two to three years and advertise their readiness to mate by making lots of noise. They’re not averse to getting cuddly with several partners, and they like things spicy: think hanging upside down for a good hour or two while the male performs – ahem – intimacies.

Aye-ayes grow 14 to 17 inches long
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If you see them: You’re lucky – aye-ayes are rarely spotted. Their huge bat-like ears, yellow eyes, slender clawed fingers and toes (except their opposable big toes), and hairy bodies will almost certainly leave an impression. 

Pet peeves: The loss of their precious forest! Since 1973, Madagascar has lost a whole whack of forest and it’s no coincidence that aye-aye numbers have dropped drastically – by at least 50% over three generations (36 years). Being hunted for food, or killed because you’re considered a crop pest or an omen of evil isn’t fun, either. Nor is being shipped off to the international pet trade, as some sadly are.

Growth: At the ripe old age of three or four, females are ready to be mums. Once they’ve found a male and done the business, they birth singletons, whom they look after for 18 months-to-two years. They repeat this gig every two to three years.

Check out our track from Animals in Therapy

An Aye-aye Anthem

Fun facts: Aye-ayes have the largest brain-to-body ratio of all their kind – Lemur-o Da Vinci up in here! Might have something to do with their ingenious defence mechanism: puffing its fur to appear to double in size and scare off any would-be predators.

Who are they: The brainbox with strict rules about personal space.

How at risk is it: ENDANGERED

A star from season 2

Check out the Aye-aye in action in Animals in Therapy