Cleveland Metroparks Zoo manages one of the most diverse collections of prosimians in the country and today introduced one of the most unique looking mammals from that group, the aye-aye (pronounced eye-eye), one of only six zoos in America to have one on exhibit.
Native to the island nation of Madagascar, the aye-aye is a seldom seen, nocturnal tree-dweller. While similar to lemurs, the aye-aye has proportionately larger eyes, ears and fingers, giving it an eerie appearance and an unfortunate reputation among the people of Madagascar.
Many native islanders consider the other-worldly looking aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) to be a harbinger of bad luck and sometimes even death. Aye-ayes are often killed on sight due to these fears. That fact, combined with habitat loss through deforestation has left the species threatened in the wild.
The aye-aye's unique looks are specifically adapted to help it hunt in the dark for insects and larvae. It taps branches and tree trunks listening for bugs burrowing beneath the bark. Then it gnaws away the bark and uses its long, skinny finger to scoop out its meal. At the Zoo, the aye-aye can be seen using its finger to hollow out the pulpy insides of grapes, leaving the skin behind.
There are six types of primates that can be classified as a prosimian, including the lemur, tarsier, aye-aye, loris, potto and bush baby. The Zoo has five different species of lemur, one species of loris, the potto, the bush baby, and now the aye-aye, a 17-year-old female from the Duke University Lemur Center. Winter is the perfect opportunity to see these rare primates because all of the Zoo's specimens are located indoors in the Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building.
Northeast Ohio's most-visited year-round attraction, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Through March 31, 2012, admission is discounted to $8 per person, $5 for kids ages 2 to 11 and is free for children younger than 2 and Zoo members. Parking is free. Located at 3900 Wildlife Way, the Zoo is easily accessible from Interstates 71, 90 and 480.
For more information, visit clemetzoo.com or call (216) 661-6500.