Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Aye-aye, the popular name, probably derived from its cry, of Cheiromys madagascariensis, the sole species of a genus of aberrant Lemurs, with affinities to the Rodents. It is a rare nocturnal arboreal animal, about the size of the domestic cat, with a long squirrel-like tail, found only in Madagascar. The eyes are very large, as are the naked ears, which are expanded widely and bent forward; the hair on the body is dense and furry, of a deep fuscous hue, approaching black, mixed with scattered long white hairs, especially on the back. The feet are long, and the great toe is well developed for grasping; the hands are like those of no other animal, the third digit of each being very thin, and "resembling a piece of bent wire." The Aye-aye passes the day curled up in a kind of nest, but is very active at night. It feeds chiefly on the larvae of wood-boring insects, using its strong teeth to gnaw away the wood and its wire-like finger to pick them from their holes. It also eats fruit, the pith of the bamboo, and in captivity subsists on bread and milk, with soft fruit, as bananas. It uses the middle finger to carry water to its mouth, and does this so rapidly that the liquid seems to pass in a continual stream, but sometimes the animal laps like a cat. The zoological position of the Aye-aye was long a matter of doubt, and to Sir Richard Owen belongs the credit of satisfactorily determining its place with relation to other animals. The natives have a superstitious dread of it, believing that whoever kills or molests one will die within the year, and this fear, coupled with the nocturnal habits of the animals, makes it very difficult to obtain specimens. There was one in the Zoological Gardens, but its cage appeared to be tenantless, for "Jack" passed the day in the little box at the top, and only came down when the visitors had left the monkey-house. It died about 1896.