The next species I had the pleasure of observing was the Aye-Aye, also known by its scientific name, daubentonia madagascariensis. The Aye-Aye belongs to the Promisian family. Unfortunately, the Aye-Aye is endangered due to it being thought of as a crop pest and the superstition that the creature is a bad omen. The bulk of the species spends its life exclusively in Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world found in the Indian Ocean. The Aye-Aye is spread fairly evenly throughout the island; with the exception of the Southwest, where the population is a bit sparse.
Although Aye-Ayes can thrive in just about any type of environment, they do seem to congregate in forests most of the time. This primate is not too picky when it comes to food. They are best described as omnivores, because they truly will eat just about anything available. The Aye-Aye would probably be deemed by most as a “creepy” looking creature. The species is the second largest nocturnal primate.
The Aye-Aye appears to have two coats of hair; one dense, long layer of black hair and one layer of short, soft white hair. The average weight of an Aye-Aye is approximately six pounds, with an unbelievable length.
If you include this unique creature’s tail, the Aye-Aye is approximately thirty two inches long. The Aye-Ayes face is kind of pinched, pale in color, with distinctive dark rings around the eyes. The ears of the Aye-Aye are also quite dark, but they are very movable, perking at the slightest noise.
You can most easily identify the Aye-Aye as a primate due to its thin and elongated middle finger on its hands. The primate uses this feature to its advantage while hunting. The Aye-Aye’s behavior is quite odd, in comparison to most primates. I find it fascinating exactly how much the Aye-Aye use their long, spiny, fingers to their advantage, particularly while hunting. As if their fingers were not distinctive enough, the Aye Aye also uses echolocation to aid with hunting. “Aye-Ayes use their fingers to tap on trees and woody vines… they then listen with their oversize ears for the hollow sound of tunnels inside the bark created by wood-boring beetle larvae.”2 Competition when hunting does not seem to be an issue for this creature, because they mark their territory by secreting a scent from their cheeks and neck. Often times, male territories will overlap, but you will never find a female’s territory overlapping with another female’s.
From my understanding, when the Aye-Ayes are not hunting or eating during the night, they are fairly inactive. They can typically be found sleeping away in their spherical, intricate nest built of twigs and dried leaves. Though I plan on attending the zoo during the daytime, I do hope to at least see a bit of activity from the Aye-Aye. To my surprise, the Aye-Ayes were quite active. At the San Francisco Zoo, they have a habitat built with special lighting to simulate darkness for the Aye-Aye. My initial reaction was that they were quite gnarly looking, but also intriguing. The first things you do notice are those long, skeletal fingers. I noticed that they both leap and run, not exactly usual for most primates. They did sit quite a lot, however. By the end of my visit with them, I thought without a doubt that their poor ears were going to fall off with all the perking and twitching they were doing listening to the visitors surrounding them. I would classify them as quite solitary creatures; there was not too much social interaction, an acknowledgement here and there, but not a family or community type interaction that you often see when observing primates. Unfortunately for me, I did not get to observe their way of hunting, but I did have the pleasure of watching one eat. It was interesting to see how much they truly do rely on that elongated middle finger. Just about every time the Aye-Aye grabbed the grub, s/he prodded it with that digit, as if it was a fork. Honestly, it was a creature that I could watch all day long without getting bored. I found the creature so unique and likable.