If you’ve never heard of the aye-aye, it’s okay. This extremely rare animal is in the primate family, meaning they are related to chimpanzees, apes and, of course, humans. Also found in the wild in remote areas of Madagascar, there are 24 aye-ayes living at seven zoos around the country. The newest addition to the aye-aye headcount is baby Tonks, who was born on Aug. 8 at the Denver Zoo.
Beady yellow eyes, a primarily bald face, skeletal, long, creeping fingers, rodent-like teeth that never stop growing … his appearance is a contentious topic. While some say the aye-aye is adorable, in other cultures spotting this type of lemur is considered an omen of evil thanks to its ghoulish appearance.
Not to worry, the aye-aye eventually gets better-looking. As they reach maturity, growing to about 4 or 5 pounds, their bodies will be completely covered in fur. They grow into the size of their enormous eyes and honestly do end up looking a little bit like the funny “Madagascar” character Maurice.
Despite Tonks’ unusual appearance, his birth has scientists excited. The aye-aye is not only an elusive species, as it lives high up in the rainforest canopy, but it is also endangered. Born to mom Bellatrix and dad Smeagol (yes, that’s a reference to the disturbing-looking “Lord of The Rings” character, Smeagol), Tonks is “healthy and thriving,” according to the Denver Zoo website.
W/ only 24 residing in 7 zoos in the US & an unknown number in the wild, #endangered aye-ayes are among the rarest—and hardest to see—animals in the world. Now 3 of these elusive nocturnal lemurs, often considered the strangest primates on earth, live at Denver Zoo. pic.twitter.com/rgXFqw8fzA
— Denver Zoo (@DenverZoo) September 13, 2018
“We noticed that Bellatrix wasn’t showing typical mothering behaviors, so we decided to step in to give Tonks some supportive care,” said Denver Zoo’s lead primate keeper Becky Sturges. “We provided 24-hour care for the first week and had to teach Bellatrix how to nurse, but now she is nursing well and Tonks has gained a lot of weight. Now we’re just monitoring them to make sure things continue to go well.”
It’s unlikely that Tonks will be out and about anytime soon, though. The newborn critter will remain in her nest box for a few months before she starts exploring her new habitat — and then she’ll head high up into the treetop.
What do you think of this newborn aye-aye? Cute or not cute?