Underdogs of the Animal World: Aye-aye

Okay, let’s take a moment to think about every time we’ve noticed the massive ‘L’ sign on our foreheads. There was that one time that I poured blood, sweat and tears into the flapjacks I made for a charity bake sale, only to ask a semi-popular, undercover nerd to buy one and be rewarded with a look like I’d set fire to his Magic the Gathering cards and told the Internet about their existence. That was a dark day, folks. But don’t cry for me because it’s not that bad. I could have been born an Aye-aye.

The Aye-aye is a funny looking lemur that lives high up in the trees of Madagascar. You may have thought that Maurice, Julien’s assistant in the film Madagascar, is a bit funny looking, and that’s because he’s an Aye-aye and that’s their thang. When God was handing out cuteness, the Aye-ayes were all at a house party eating nachos and dip, and though it was fun at the time, boy, are they paying for it now.

The Aye-aye, despite being awesome, is not that great at making friends. He’s like that girl you know who’s hilarious when you get to know her, but no-one will talk to her ’cause she wears a battered ‘Kiss’ hoodie, is obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe and doodles all over her arms with a sharpie. Malagasy villagers are not the Aye-aye’s friend. At all. In fact, they’re so not friends that they’ve started loads of rumors about the Aye-aye. For example, if an Aye-aye points a finger at a villager, the villager must kill the Aye-aye before they are killed. It’s basically the plot of The Ring sans VCR.

It’s partly because of all this talk of curses that the Aye-aye is classified as critically endangered. Much like the three-toed sloth, the Aye-aye has a massive relative that is now extinct. Bones of their big-boned grandmother have been found, along with large teeth with holes drilled through, leading to speculation that giant Aye-ayes were popular for jewelry-making. Hadn’t they ever heard of Swarovski crystals? On a related note, Paris Hilton is now known as the patron saint of Aye-ayes.

Of course, we can’t blame the bullies for everything. No matter how much it totally makes sense, karmically speaking, deforestation also has a lot to answer for. The trees which the Aye-aye likes to hang out in are being cut down, forcing them to wander closer to, and even into, villages, where dogs will attack them, and people will kill them, all for the crime of being beautiful only on the inside.

It’s not as if Aye-aye’s don’t have an excuse handy for their less than pleasing package; they do. In fact, they have an excuse for every bit of their body, and that’s kind of the point. The Aye-aye is all about function over fashion, Crocs over Manolos, Wal-Mart over Prada. The Aye-aye knows who he is and what he’s about, he doesn’t need to impress anyone with labels and brand names and cool points, though perhaps it would have been helpful in the whole trying-not-to-die thing if he’d perhaps got his nails did.

Speaking of nails, the Aye-aye doesn’t have them. He has claws instead, all the better to spear grubs with and pop them into his mouth, like cocktail sausages. And the Aye-aye has one long, spindly, almost-360-degree-rotating finger on each hand for doing just that, as well as using it to freak out Malagasy villagers by pointing at them, then running away. But the real reason behind his Skeletor powers is for food hunting. The Aye-aye uses his skinny finger to tap on trees, just like a woodpecker, in order to wheedle out grubs and other yummy things. Then, when he’s found something he fancies, he’ll nibble a hole in the tree, with teeth that never stop growing, jab his spiky finger in, and pull out a dinner fit for a king. I’m thinking Simba. Hey, hakuna matata.

The Aye-aye also has super awesome Exorcist-style ears, which rotate independently, which he may or may not use to find out local gossip and inform E! news. He also has a third eyelid, which he uses to moisten his eyes when they’re dry, kind of like eye drops, but freakier. Luckily Aye-ayes are nocturnal and don’t have to brave the outside world looking like a hot mess when there’s a chance they can be seen, unlike some of us, who have no choice. Because of the Aye-aye’s fit for purpose design, they confused scientists for quite a while, who just assumed that they were funny looking squirrel things. This might be why the Aye-aye took to jabbing his finger at locals. I mean, if people took one look at you and decided that you were a really ugly horse because of your luxurious hair, you’d take offence, right?

Despite their aesthetic difficulties, Aye-ayes have no trouble getting laid. They’re solitary creatures, who tend to hang out in a range of 100 to 200 hectares, but their span overlaps with a few females who come calling every once in a while. Literally. When a lady Aye-aye is feeling a bit frisky, she’ll yell about it and hope that someone turns up, and they do, usually more than one, and you know what that means. Death match! Well, it’s more of a scuffle. And once the male has won his lady, the fight doesn’t end, oh no. Whilst the happy couple are busy making babies upside down, (!) the other males will have a go at knocking the lucky bloke off balance.

You can see how it’s easy to make an enemy of the Aye-aye; they’ve got a lot to be upset about after all: the loss of their home sweet home, getting knocked to the ground whilst having some hanky panky, the rumor mill going into overdrive, not to mention their face. It’s a sad life, so what’s an Aye-aye to do but write threatening messages on tree trunks using their butt? Yeah, that wouldn’t be my first choice either, but whatever. These butt-etchings are a warning to any trespassers that they’re on enemy turf and should therefore skedaddle before they get a skinny-fingered poke in the eye.

So if you ever come across an Aye-aye and it points its finger at you, don’t freak out, keep calm and carry on, because they’re not bad, they’re just drawn that way.

Featured image via Wikipedia; Additional images via Wikipedia and Shuttershock