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Just pre-lockdown, Keepers at Jersey Zoo welcomed an adorable baby aye-aye to the Durrell family. Now two months old, the baby is doing well, and the team have been keeping a close eye on its progress. This precious new arrival is the second offspring of mum, Ala, and dad, Pan. Like many primates native to Madagascar, the aye-aye is an endangered species. This birth is a welcome addition to the captive breeding programme for this rare species given the critical state of their population in the wild.
It is not yet known whether the baby is male or female, as the keepers at Jersey Zoo have a hands-off approach where possible, and infants can sometimes be misidentified if this is done too early. Youngsters tend to stay inside their nest box for the first four to six weeks, so a camera trap has been set up inside the enclosure, allowing staff a rare glimpse when Ala ventures out of the nest box carrying the baby in her mouth. “Ala and her baby have been doing really well,” says Senior Mammal Keeper Rachel Cowen. “At the moment, the baby spends the majority of time in the nest box and is still a bit slow and uncoordinated when moving around. Infants aren’t very competent at walking along branches and making small jumps until they reach about 3 months old.
However, the baby has started trying to climb out of the nest box by itself, but Ala is not very keen on this and quickly brings it back in!” “Recently, the baby has been doing lots of chewing and tapping on the sides of the wooden nest box,” Rachel continued. “This is a sign that the infant is starting to practice the behaviours it will need for foraging for food. Aye-ayes have a long, skinny middle finger used for tapping and then extracting insects from tree cavities. They also have strong, ever-growing incisors to chew through bark, which are also strong enough to chew through concrete!”
Jersey Zoo is now open to all visitors, with access to all outside animal enclosures and seating areas. Unfortunately, the indoor animal houses, including the aye-aye enclosures, remain closed so you’ll have to wait until next time to see this little fella… (The Durrell team want to reassure the public that this is not due to an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 and they have all the necessary mitigations in place. However, the zoo must follow the Government of Jersey’s phased reopening strategy). They are working closely with them and hope to be able to reopen these indoor animal exhibits soon.