Superstition and the Aye-aye
World's Largest Nocturnal Primate



Superstition and the Aye-aye - World's Largest Nocturnal Primate
The superstitious believe that the Aye Aye can cast evil curses with its middle finger

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and unfortunately for this creature, his appearance has given him a bad name.

The superstitious believe that the Aye-aye can cast evil curses with its middle finger - but, the strange nocturnal primate from Madagascar is actually one of the world's rarest animals.

It's part of a breeding program at Bristol zoo. The Aye-aye is currently an
endangered species.

The Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a lemur, a strepsirrhine primate native to Madagascar that combines rodent-like teeth with a long, thin middle finger to fill the same ecological niche as a woodpecker.

From an ecological point of view the Aye-aye fills the niche of a woodpecker as it is capable of penetrating wood to extract the invertebrates within.


It is the world's largest nocturnal primate, and is characterized by its unusual method of finding food; it taps on trees to find grubs, then gnaws holes in the wood and inserts its elongated middle finger to pull the grubs out.

The only other animal species known to find food in this way is the Striped Possum.

The Aye-aye commonly eats nuts, grubs, fruits, nectar, seeds, and fungi, classifying it as an omnivore. It often picks fruit off trees as it moves through the canopy, often barely stopping to do so.

An Aye-aye not lucky enough to live in its natural habitat will often steal coconuts, mangoes, sugar cane, lychees and eggs from villages and plantations.

Aye-ayes tap on the trunks and branches of the trees they visit up to 8 times per second and listen to the echo produced to find hollow chambers inside.

Once a chamber is found they chew a hole into the wood and get grubs out of that hole with their narrow and bony middle fingers.

The Aye-aye is the only extant member of the genus Daubentonia and family Daubentoniidae (although it is currently classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN); a second species, Daubentonia robusta, appears to have become extinct at some point within the last 1000 years.

The original meaning of the name Aye-aye has been lost, as the originating language is extinct.

There is a hypothesis that the word "aye aye" signifies simply a cry of alarm to alert others to the presence of this animal, which many Malagasy consider an ill omen.

With D. robusta's extermination, the D. madagascariensis Aye-aye was thought to be extinct. However, it was later rediscovered in 1961. Six individuals were transported to Nosy Mangabe, an island near Maroantsetra in eastern Madagascar.

Recent research shows that the Aye-aye is more widespread than was previously thought, but is still near threatened.

 
The superstitious believe that the Aye Aye can cast evil curses with its middle finger. An ancient Malagasy legend said that the Aye-aye was a symbol of death and the only way to prevent this is to kill the Aye-aye.



Some people even claim the Aye-aye sneaks into houses through the thatched roofs and murder the sleeping occupants by using their middle finger to puncture the victim's aorta.
 





The Aye-aye


They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and unfortunately for this creature, his appearance has given him a bad name.


The superstitious believe that the Aye Aye can cast evil curses with its middle finger - but, the strange nocturnal primate from Madagascar is actually one of the world's rarest animals. It's part of a breeding programme at Bristol zoo.


There are several Aye-ayes kept in zoos. The largest collection of Aye-ayes and the most successful breeding program with a current population of 22 individuals is at the Duke Lemur Center at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, US. Several also reside outside of the US at various locations.

The Aye-aye is a near threatened species not only because its habitat is 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. It is viewed as a good omen in some areas, however, but these areas are a minority.

Researchers in
Madagascar report remarkable fearlessness in the Aye-aye; some accounts tell of individual animals strolling nonchalantly in village streets or even walking right up to naturalists in the rainforest 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 Common Raccoon in this regard.

The Aye-aye is often viewed as a harbinger of evil and killed on sight.

However, public contempt goes 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 Aye-aye.

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.

Incidents of 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. On the other hand, the superstition can prevent people from hunting them for food.