With only 24 residing in seven zoos in the United States and an unknown number in the wild, aye-ayes are among the rarest—and hardest to see—animals in the world. Now three of these elusive nocturnal lemurs, which many consider the strangest primates on earth, call Denver Zoo home following the birth of a female named Tonks.
Tonks, who was born on August 8 to mom Bellatrix and dad Smeagol, is healthy and thriving; however, her first days were worrying for Denver Zoo’s animal care staff and veterinarians.
“We noticed that Bellatrix wasn’t showing typical mothering behaviors, so we decided to step in to give Tonks some supportive care,” said Lead Primate Keeper Becky Sturges. “We provided 24-hour care for the first week and had to teach Bellatrix how to nurse, but now she is nursing well and Tonks has gained a lot of weight. Now we’re just monitoring them to make sure things continue to go well.”
Aye-aye are classified as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ and native only to remote parts of Madagascar. 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. Aye-ayes are born weighing just a few ounces and reach up to 5 lbs. as adults, and live up to 20 years.
Tonks is currently in the aye-aye exhibit in Emerald Forest with Bellatrix and Smeagol, but guests shouldn’t expect to see her anytime soon—she’ll remain in her nest box for at least a couple more months before she’s exploring on her own and easily visible.