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Helping an underweight newborn aye-aye nurse

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How do the veterinarians and caregivers at the Duke Lemur Center help a tiny aye-aye grow? In this clip from the BBC’s Nature’s Miracle Babies, vet Cathy Williams helps an underweight newborn learn how to nurse from its mother. Her team also supplements the baby’s nursing with “bottle” feeds every two hours to make sure its getting the nutrition it needs to gain weight.

The Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina has been key in the conservation of this endangered species:

Specifically, they were responsible for the first aye-aye born into captivity and studied how he and the other aye-aye infants born at the center develop through infancy. They have also revolutionized the understanding of the aye-aye diet.

Like all lemurs, the nocturnal aye-aye is endemic to the island of Madagascar.

baby aye-aye
The clip also includes a demonstration of how an adult aye-aye eats. See it using its incisor teeth, large ears, and an “evolutionary masterpiece”—a long, thin, ball-and-socket jointed finger with a sharp claw. They use that digit, one of six, to tap on tree bark “at a rate of up to eight times per second…”

and listen to the echo produced to find hollow chambers. Studies have suggested that the acoustic properties associated with the foraging cavity have no effect on excavation behavior. Once a chamber is found, they chew a hole into the wood and get grubs out of that hole with their highly adapted narrow and bony middle fingers.

the aye aye's incredible fingers

The aye-aye begins foraging between 30 minutes before and three hours after sunset. Up to 80% of the night is spent foraging in the canopy, separated by occasional rest periods. It climbs trees by making successive vertical leaps, much like a squirrel.

aye aye
According to this Washington Post article in 2019, there “only about 30 captive aye-ayes live in the United States.”

Related reading: Why Do Lemurs Live Only in Madagascar?

And on TKSST: See more lemur videos and another aye-aye at the San Diego Zoo.

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