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Monday, May 24, 2010

Conservation 101: Near Threatened

The Aye-Aye. Also known as Daubentonia madagascar-iensis. This creature is peculiar, even by the lemur's standards of peculiarity. It has a distinctively slender and very long middle finger used to seek out grubs and other possible food sources from tree trunks, like a woodpecker. They have dark brown or black fur that can have white flecks at the tip. The Aye-aye's tail is much longer than its body in a way that frustrates our expectations for proportion and, well, let's just say the eyes are intense. Further, the aye-aye's mammary glands are located near the groin and persistent ova production allows reproduction for the entire life span of a female aye-aye. These strange and nocturnal primates are found almost exclusively in Madagascar and live in the canopies of rain forests.

Their status as near-threatened has two main sources. First, it's the result of local superstition. Aye-ayes are viewed as harbingers of evil and death and they are often killed on sight. One cannot help but suspect if these creatures were perhaps a little softer around the edges, a little less freaky, they might have avoided their local status as a boogie man. And though they are currently protected by law, well meaning villagers often kill them in an effort to mitigate the bad luck. And, secondly, deforestation and the loss of their original habitat also contributes to the decline of the species. Aye-ayes are forced to move closer to villages as they lose their treetop habitats and as we've seen, the villages are mostly bad luck for aye-ayes!

Although there is much we still don't know about the Aye-aye (used to be classified as a rodent, for example), check out the Primate Fact-sheet from the University of Wisconsin for information regarding morphology, behavior and other detailed descriptions.

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