Aye-ayes, a rat like creature, can only be found at the island of Madagaskar with only 1000 of its members still surviving. The Aye-aye is an endangered 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.
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. Fortunately, the superstition can prevent people from hunting them for food.
This rare specie may not look like it at first glance but they are related to chimpanzees, apes, and humans.
Aye-ayes are black or dark brown in color and are known by their bushy tail that is larger than their body. They also feature big eyes, slender fingers, and large, sensitive ears. Aye-ayes have pointed claws on all their fingers and toes except for their opposable big toes, which enable them to dangle from branches.
Aye-ayes spend their lives in rain forest trees and avoid coming down to the ground. They are nocturnal, and spend the day curled up in a ball-like nest of leaves and branches. The nests appear as closed spheres with single entry holes, situated in the forks of large trees.
While perched aloft, the aye-aye taps on trees with its long middle finger and listens for wood-boring insect larvae moving under the bark. It employs the same middle finger to fish them out. The digit is also useful for scooping the flesh out of coconuts and other fruits that supplement the animal’s insect diet.
Many people native to Madagascar still consider the aye-aye an omen of ill luck. For this reason they often have been killed on sight. Such hunting, coupled with habitat destruction, have made the aye-aye critically endangered. Today they are protected by law.
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