The aye aye is a highly unusual primate that was originally classified as a rodent, until further research was done on this bizarre creature. The aye aye is exclusively found on the island of Madagascar, spending its whole life in the very tops of the rain forest trees. The aye aye has a unique way to find its food, using a technique called “echolocation,” which is the act of producing sound waves to find prey. The aye aye does this by tapping its middle finger on the bark of trees, which helps the animal to locate wood-born insect larvae tunneling through the tree. Read on to learn more about the aye aye.
Description of the Aye Aye
The aye aye looks more like a rodent, than a primate at first glance, with its long, bushy tail that exceeds the length of its body. The tails of these unique creatures are black or brown in coloration, and the body of the aye aye is generally brown or a slate color, with small flecks of white on the thick hair coat. The face of the aye aye is the lightest part of the animal, with striking, wide-open yellow-orange eyes, and big leathery ears.
The hands of the aye aye are the most distinctive characteristic, next to the eyes, as they feature long, thin fingers with claw-like nails. The third finger is so thin, that it looks more like bone than a finger, but its special design helps the aye aye dig out insect larvae, and the meat of coconuts. The opposable big toes of the aye aye are what allows it to dangle from tree branches without falling.
Interesting Facts about the Aye Aye
The aye aye is a bizarre primate that was originally classified as a rodent. This highly unusual animal is the largest known nocturnal primate in the world, and possesses interesting characteristics that set the mammal apart from all the rest.
- The aye aye is the only primate that uses echolocation to find its prey.
- The aye aye’s middle finger is extremely thin, to the point that it looks no larger than the bone underneath.
- The aye aye may not look like a primate, but this rare animal is actually related to apes, chimpanzees and even humans.
Habitat of the Aye Aye
The aye aye is native to the rain forests of Madagascar, where it spends its life perched in forest trees, avoiding contact with the ground. The aye aye makes a nest out of the branches and leaves, which looks like a ball up in the crown of tall forest trees. The nest has a single hole for going in and out.
Distribution of the Aye Aye
The aye aye can only be found on the island of Madagascar. Although endemic (only found in one geographical area) to this country, the species is wide-ranging, being seen from the rainforests of Madascar’s east coast, to the dry forests of the northwest. The primate can be seen in the preserves of the Nosy Mangabe and Aye-Aye islands, where it is protected, however, populations still remain low is each geographic area.
Diet of the Aye Aye
The aye aye’s favorite food source is wood-boring insect larvae, but has also been known to feast on other insect grubs, fungi, ramy nuts, palm tree nectar, coconut flesh, and other fruits when insect larvae cannot be found.
Aye Aye and Human Interaction
The aye aye has become critically endangered, due to people hunting the creature for sport. In addition, the native population has engaged in killing the animal on sight due to superstitious beliefs. Humans have also destroyed a great portion of the aye aye’s natural habitat, cutting down the forest trees to make way for agricultural development.
The aye aye is not a domesticated creature, but does belong to a large group of captive breeding programs and protected areas. Captive breeding colonies of the aye aye can be found in the London zoo, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey (in the Channel Islands), and at the Duke Primate Centre in North Carolina. Protected areas that are home to a large population of the aye aye species include Madagascar’s Nosy Mangabe Special Reserve, Andasible-Mantadia National Park, Ranomafana National Park, and Ankarana Reserve.
Does the Aye Aye Make a Good Pet?
The aye aye does not make a good pet, as this primate is not domesticated.
Aye Aye Care
The aye aye is cared for in breeding colonies and national parks by imitating the natural habitat of this unique creature. A captive temperature of 63º – 82º F (17º – 28º C) is maintained to mimic the seasonal temperatures of Madagascar. Tall trees with leafy branches are also provided to allow the aye aye to create its unique, spherical nest.
Behavior of the Aye Aye
The aye aye is a nocturnal creature, meaning it sleeps during the day, and, when they are awake, they spend the night feeding. The aye aye is a rather solitary creature whose only main time of interaction is at the time of mating.
Reproduction of the Aye Aye
The male aye aye has a territory of approximately 240-494 acres (100-200 hectares ), which he marks by rubbing his rump, face, and neck onto various branches, to keep other males away. Each home range occupied by a single male aye aye is home to several female aye aye. The aye aye does not have a breeding season, but mates whenever the female advertises that she is ready by emitting a distinct mating call.
The gestation period, which is the period of time the female carries the baby in her uterus, lasts approximately 160-170 days (about 5 1/2 months), before giving birth to a single baby aye aye. The infant will remain in the forest nest for two months before the primate is mature enough to venture out. Researchers believe that after the female aye aye mates, she will not give birth again for almost three years.
Beliefs, Superstitions, and Phobias about the Aye Aye
The aye aye is believed by the native people of Madagascar to be a bad omen. When seen, the people believe the mammal will curse them with bad luck. It is for this reason that they are readily killed.