Nature Corner: The Aye-Aye
The forest's ugliest inhabitant, hands down.
Welcome to the Nature Corner w/ Matt Trotter:
I believe it to be of the upmost importance that each of us are educated about all forms of life on our planet, seeing as our generation will be the ones tasked with making decisions on it in the not so distant future. I may not have the charms, boundless knowledge or soothing accent of David Attenborough, but hopefully I can spark an interest in the world around us by enlightening you on some of the lesser known weird-and-wonderfuls that nature has up its sleeve.
If you took a fruit bat, cut off its wings and sold its soul to the devil, you’d be left with something similar to the Aye-Aye. Found exclusively in Madagascar (and your nightmares), this tree-dwelling mammal was long thought to be a rodent due to its ratty appearance and long, continuously growing front teeth, but was soon discovered to actually be a fucked up looking lemur. So, considering both lemurs and humans are primates, the Aye-Aye is actually more closely related to your mother than it is to a rat.
Hands down the most nightmarish attribute of the Aye-Aye is its especially long, thin and demonic middle finger which has a ball joint at its base, allowing it to rotate 360 degrees. It taps the clawed end of this finger against tree trunks at a blinding speed of 8 times per second, utilising a form of echo-location to hunt down wood boring insects, which are then clawed out using the same finger. I imagine the poor insect bastards must feel somewhat like Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning did in that basement scene from War Of The Worlds.
Despite the Aye-Aye’s demon-finger being packed with sensory neurons, it is left cold and dead when not in use. Then, when night falls, like some ever hungering vampiric appendage, it is ‘woken up’ with warm blood to begin a long night of rapid tapping; knocking on the doors of its sleeping victims and scaring the shit out of insects in neighbouring trees.
Unfortunately, the strange and mystical persona of the Aye-Aye hasn't done it any favours amongst the local Madagascan people, with the belief that if one points that terrifyingly slender digit at you, you are marked for death, and the only way to end the curse is to kill the animal that marked you. On that note; it’s probably safe to say you shouldn’t walk around Madagascar flippin’ the bird at the locals. Some folk even believe that it is responsible for sneaking into victims’ houses at night and murdering them while they sleep, using its infamous middle finger to puncture their aorta. Sweet dreams, right?
Tragically, these stories and the ensuing folklore now unfairly attached to the Aye-Aye have led to them being regularly killed on sight, and along with extensive deforestation we now see them pushed to the brink of extinction. Thankfully, recently initiated breeding programs, public awareness campaigns and increased protection from the government are helping to make the future brighter for the little guys. Terrifying as they may be, we can be thankful that measures are now being put in place to ensure that these bizarre critters can continue to haunt the dreams of generations to come.