First glimpse of rare lemur born at British zoo

PA

One of the most unusual and threatened lemurs in the world has been born at a British zoo.

The aye-aye lemur was born almost two months ago at Bristol Zoo but has been kept out of sight by its mother until now.

Aye-ayes are nocturnal and are famed for having an extended middle finger which they use to find food inside logs and trees.

Mother Tahiry keeps a close eye on the infant aye-aye lemur at Bristol Zoo but has been kept out of sight until now (Paige Bwye/Bristol Zoo Gardens/PA)
Mother Tahiry keeps a close eye on the infant aye-aye lemur at Bristol Zoo but has been kept out of sight until now (Paige Bwye/Bristol Zoo Gardens/PA)

Senior mammal keeper Paige Bwye, who took the remarkable pictures, said: “I went to check on the aye-ayes and I saw these two bright, dark eyes peering at me and I knew immediately it was the new infant.

“Our eyes locked on each other. It was a very special moment for me because I had also been the first to see its mother, Tahiry, who was born at the zoo five years ago.

“I kept thinking ‘Please don’t move before I can get a picture’, and I was able to get close enough to capture these.

“Tahiry came out to see what was happening but we have such a good relationship with her that she was quite happy with me being there.”

Five-year-old Tahiry gave birth to the infant in Twilight World where she lives with her mate, Peanut, who is four and came from London Zoo in 2019.

Keepers at the zoo had heard the little aye-aye making squawking sounds for weeks but Tahiry kept it completely out of sight.

The aye-aye lemur was born almost two months ago at Bristol Zoo but has been kept out of sight by its mother until now (Paige Bwye/Bristol Zoo Gardens/PA)
The aye-aye lemur was born almost two months ago at Bristol Zoo but has been kept out of sight by its mother until now (Paige Bwye/Bristol Zoo Gardens/PA)

Miss Bwye said: “She built a narrow corridor around the inside edge of the nest box from wood-wool and bamboo.

“It wound its way into the centre where she made an elaborate nest with a roof. None of the keepers could see inside.”

She said keepers do not yet know the sex of the little aye-aye but they estimate it is about 30cm long and probably weighs about 400g.

The birth of the infant is important because aye-ayes are classified as endangered in their native Madagascar – the only place where lemurs are found in the wild.

Their forest homes are being destroyed by people for agriculture and timber. In some areas they are also killed on the belief that they are a symbol of bad luck.

Aye-ayes have evolved to feed rather like woodpeckers. At night they clamber around dead trees and tap the bark with their skeletal middle finger listening for the sound of grubs moving.

Then they use their sharp teeth to tear at the wood and fish out the grubs with their extended finger.

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