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Zoo baby alert: Denver Zoo welcomes baby aye-aye, one of world's rarest animals

Posted at 10:01 AM, Sep 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-13 12:07:50-04

DENVER — The Denver Zoo is now home to a baby aye-aye, one of the rarest animals in the world.

On Thursday morning, the zoo announced that it had welcomed its third aye-aye, which is an elusive nocturnal species of lemur.

The animal, a tiny female named Tonks, is one of only 24 aye-ayes that live in seven zoos in the United States. She was born Aug. 8 to Bellatrix and Smeagol. Like most aye-ayes, she was born weighing just a few ounces.

While Tonks is healthy and thriving now, her first few days were worrying to zoo staff and veterinarians, the zoo said. 

“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.”

Tonks is currently in the aye-aye exhibit in the Emerald Forest with Bellatrix and Smeagol. Guests shouldn’t expect to see her anytime soon since she’ll stay in her nest box for a few more more months before she’ll explore on her own.

Aye-ayes are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are native only to specific parts of Madagascar, and scientists can only guess at its population numbers.

The zoo said the animals are distinctive because of their many unique adaptations, like coarse, dark hair, long bushy tails, rodent-like teeth, large eyes and skeletal, clawed hands that include one extra-long middle finger. They grow to reach about five pounds and can live up to 20 years.