The aye-aye is a medium-sized nocturnal lemur; this is where the similarity to any other lemur ends.
The animal is an extraordinary compilation of features that look like they have come from other animals. The head is equipped with large dish-like ears that can be rotated independently, capable of picking up the slightest sound at night. The front incisor teeth grow continuously, rather like a squirrel, so that they never wear down. The fingers on the hands are all very long - and the middle finger especially so - it looks almost like a skeleton finger with skin stretched over the top.
Bristol Zoo is home to three aye-ayes; dad Noah, daughter Tahiry and new-comer Peanut. Tahiry was born in 2015, and is one half of the world's first aye-aye twins. Tahiry's twin sister Kambana has since moved to Chester Zoo to join a mate and Tahiry was joined by Peanut in the hope the pair will breed in the future.
Aye-ayes are omnivores and eat nuts, nectar from Traveler's palm and insects.
The aye-aye has evolved to feed almost like a woodpecker. At night, it clambers around dead trees and taps the bark all over with its skinny middle finger. If the bark sounds hollow the aye aye stops and uses its supersensitive hearing to listen for the movements of insect grubs beneath the bark. When it hears something, it rips the bark up using its long, powerful front teeth and then uses that skinny middle finger to fish the grub out of its hole.
In the wild, aye-ayes live in the tropical rainforests and tropical dry forests of Madagascar.
The aye-aye is classified as Endangered. It is at the centre of many local superstitious beliefs - some of which protect the aye-aye, but others result in persecution.
Due to deforestation and persecution, the population dramatically declined in size and by the 1980s only a few scattered individuals were thought to remain. Recent research has shown that aye ayes are more widely distributed than previously thought and sightings have thankfully increased. A protected aye aye reserve off the northeast coast of Madagascar - Nosy Mangabe - has now been established.
The aye-aye population is being maintained in human care here at the Zoo. They are kept separately, as befits their solitary lifestyle, and only come together to breed.
Noah is thought to be approximately 28 years old. Aye-aye can live between 20-30 years in captivity, meaning Noah is an elderly gentleman who is still very happy to explore anything new in his enclosure. He especially loves receiving meal worms in bamboo or insect hotels.
You can find our aye-ayes in the forest section of Twilight World, just off the Top Terrace.
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