DENVER (CBS4) — Tonks, the baby aye-aye born on Aug. 8, has emerged from the nest box at the Denver Zoo and is now starting to explore her habitat in Emerald Forest. Aye-ayes are among the rarest — and hardest to see — animals in the world. There are only 24 in seven zoos in the United States — and no one knows how many are living in the wild.
Aye-ayes are an elusive type of nocturnal lemur. They are classified as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ and native only to remote parts of Madagascar.
“Some Malagasy natives consider the aye-aye an evil omen and often kill them on sight,” according to the Denver Zoo.
“They are one of the most distinctive looking animals on the planet due to a number of unique adaptations, including coarse dark hair, long bushy tails, rodent-like teeth, piercing eyes and skeletal hands that feature extra-long middle fingers with hooked claws,” zoo officials said in a statement.
Tonks was born mom Bellatrix and dad Smeagol. Aye-ayes are born weighing just a few ounces and reach up to 5 pounds as adults, according to zoo officials. They can live up to 20 years.
Aye-ayes are the only primates thought to use echolocation to find prey, according to zoo officials.
“[They] are referred to as ‘percussion foragers’ because they use their middle finger to tap on wood, listening for the movement of larvae hidden inside. If they hear movement, they use their rodent-like incisors to gnaw into the bark exposing the larvae and then insert their elongated middle finger to extract the larvae,” the zoo website states.
Seeing these elusive nocturnal lemurs isn’t always easy. Lead Primate Keeper Becky Sturges offered the following tips to help you spot these elusive nocturnal lemurs on your next visit to the Zoo:
1. Visit Early…and Late: The best times to spot the aye-ayes are soon after the Zoo opens around 10:30 a.m. and late in the afternoon around 3:30 p.m.
2. Let Your Eyes Adjust: Spend at least five minutes in the exhibit to let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Keep cell phone lights off and don’t shine them into the habitat.
3. Look Up: Tonks is very adventurous and likes to explore the entire habitat, but she tends to spend more time on branches in the higher areas.