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March 7, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Animal of the Week: The Aye-Aye

This week, Salient presents to you the world’s largest nocturnal primate, found in the forests of Madagascar.

Imagine the giant yellow eyes of a lemur slapped onto an overgrown furless rat; now give it some thin, bony fingers and you have D. madagascariensis, or the aye-aye. This little critter lives in the rainforests of Madagascar, where it occupies the ecological niche of the woodpecker, gnawing through trees to reach grubs. An average night out for the aye-aye involves cruising the forest in search of love, though competition for love can get rather heated, with male aye-ayes sometimes pulling other males off females during mating. It’s not all grubs and booty calls for these guys, though. The aye-aye are feared by the Sakalava people of Madagascar, as they’re said to be the bringers of death. One particularly bleak local tale accuses aye-ayes of sneaking into homes and murdering the sleeping occupants within by stabbing them with their abnormally long middle finger, and for this reason, they’re being exterminated. Superstition might have also given rise to the name of these little balls of despair. It’s said that ‘aye-aye’ derives from ‘heh heh’, which is Malagasy for “I don’t know”, to prevent people from uttering evil’s name. Sort of like the animal equivalent of Voldemort, if you will.

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