The Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
… is the world’s largest nocturnal primate, of the infraorder lemuriformes (there are about 100 species of lemuriformes known) exclusively found in Madagascar. It is known for its large eyes and peculiar long middle finger, and for its use of percussive foraging. Tapping its narrow middle finger along tree trunks, it uses its excellent auditory capabilities to detect movement or hollow sections, and proceeds to utilize rodent-like incisors to gnaw through bark and access the insects inside; they effectively fill the niche of the woodpecker in Madagascar. They also forage like this for coconuts.
The aye-aye has been listed as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to deforestation in its habitat and, because it is seen as an omen of death to the Malagasy. The superstition of being marked fro death when an aye-aye points its middle finger at you instills a superstitious, angry fear in the Malagasy, and the animal is usually killed when spotted.
This remarkable animal is rarely studied and widely misunderstood, and is very enigmatic- it appears solitary, as it is nocturnal and sticks to higher ranges of the forest canopy, but there are cases of brave little aye-ayes inquisitively tapping and inspecting researchers.
The photos are from BBC’s Last Chance to See with Stephen Fry; the middle photos are of an aye-aye in a Madagascar zoo (using its iconic finger as a utensil, and licking fruit from Mark Carwardine’s finger!), and the first and last are rare shots of an aye-aye in its natural habitat.