October 17, 2007

the aye-aye - devilish looking animal

scary aye aye animal
the aye-aye (daubentonia madagascariensis) is a lemur native to madagascar, it's the world's largest nocturnal primate, and mainly lives in forest canopies. it weighs about 2.5 kilograms. the adult aye-aye has black or dark brown fur covered by white guard hairs at the neck. the tail is bushy and shaped like that of a squirrel.

the animal has rodent-like teeth & long, thin middle fingers to fill the same ecological niche as a woodpecker. it's got a unique method of finding food: it taps on trees to find grubs, chew a hole into wood and get grubs out of that hole with its elongated and bony middle fingers.

the aye-aye's face is also rodent-like, the shape of a raccoon's, and houses bright, beady, luminous eyes. its incisors are very large, and grow continuously throughout its lifespan. these features contrast its monkey-like body, and are the likely cause of why scientists originally deemed it to be a rodent.

the aye-aye's hands are arguably its most unique feature. much like other primates, it possesses opposable thumbs, but like fingers they are long and thin, and appear to be in a curved position somewhat similar to that of a fairy-tale witch when the muscles are relaxed. the middle finger can be up to three times longer than the others.

daubentonia (the aye-aye) belongs to the the daubentoniidae family and chiromyiformes infra-order is the only genus under them; a second species: daubentonia robusta in the genus was exterminated over the last few centuries & the remaining aye-aye is unfortunately, currently an endangered species as well.

little aye aye animalkintana, a four days old aye-aye, revealed by bristol zoo gardens in the uk after becoming only the second to be born and reared in captivity. from the bbc's day in pictures.

the original meaning of the name aye-aye has been lost, as the originating language is extinct. the word "aye aye" might simply signify a cry of alarm to alert others to the presence of this animal, which many malagasy consider an ill omen. in fact if the aye-aye is an endangered species, it's not only because its habitat being destroyed, but also due to native superstition.

besides being a general nuisance in villages, ancient malagasy legend said that the aye-aye was a symbol of death. in a few areas only, it is viewed as a good omen.

researchers in madagascar report remarkable fearlessness in the aye-aye; some individuals have been reported strolling nonchalantly in village streets or even walking right up to naturalists in the rain-forest and sniffing their shoes. therefore, it is no wonder that displaced animals often raid coconut plantations or steal food in villages. it is not unlike the american raccoon in this regard.

adult aye aye animalan adult aye-aye in captivity (click to enlarge)

however, beyond this, the aye-aye is often viewed as a harbinger of evil and killed on sight. others believe that should one point its long middle finger at you, you were condemned to death. some say the appearance of an aye-aye in a village predicts the death of a villager, and the only way to prevent this is to kill the animal. the sakalava people go so far as to claim aye-ayes sneak into houses through the thatched roofs and murder the sleeping occupants by using their middle finger to puncture the victim's aorta!

aye-aye killings increase every year as its forest habitats are destroyed and it is forced to raid plantations and villages. because of the superstition surrounding it, this often ends in death. even if the same superstition can prevent people from hunting the aye-aye for food.

below is a video of little kitana shortly after its birth, looks cute I have to admit in spite of its strangeness.


Jarka said...

that´s so cute! in fact it´s one of my favourite animals...I dan´t know why but I love it... :)