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We have welcomed a new male aye-aye – the world’s largest nocturnal primate.
Three-year-old Peanut arrived at the Zoo last week from ZSL London Zoo to join four-year-old female, Tahiry, and it is hoped the pair will go on to breed inside the our Twilight World exhibit.
Tahiry’s twin sister, Kambana, has moved to join a mate at Chester Zoo. Their keepers said the time had come for the famous siblings to separate and start families of their own - as they would in the wild.
Tahiry and Kambana were born to dad, Noah, and mother, Sabrina, in 2015, and are believed to be the world’s first aye-aye twins born in a zoo.
Noah, who is now in his late twenties, has retired from breeding and lives in an exhibit next to his daughter. Sabrina sadly died when the twins were less than a year old.
Paige Bwye, one of Tahiry and Peanut’s keepers, said she was excited to see whether a relationship would blossom between the two inexperienced animals. “We are thrilled to have introduced a male to Tahiry,” she said. “She is a confident aye-aye and I’m sure the pair will figure out what they are doing in no time.
“To have been offered a new breeding recommendation is a fantastic achievement for Bristol Zoo. It demonstrates that our long-standing, successful history of breeding the species and our expertise in caring for them is recognised.
“Aye-ayes are such fascinating creatures but little is known about their preferred breeding environments. It’s a chance for us to learn more about them and find out whether changes in temperature, diet and enrichment activities have an effect on the way they behave together.”
We are one of only 12 institutions in the world to house aye-ayes and one of only four in the UK. Including Peanut, nine aye-ayes have lived inside our nocturnal house, Twilight World, since 2001 including four that were born here at the Zoo.
Aye-ayes are native to Madagascar and can be easily recognised by their unique features including big eyes, large dish-like ears and long, skeletal middle fingers.
The nocturnal creature is the centre of many local superstitious beliefs; some of which protect the animals, whilst others result in persecution.
Once thought to be almost extinct, aye-ayes are now classified as Endangered in the wild.
Due to deforestation and persecution, the population dramatically declined and by the 1980s only a few individuals were thought to remain.
Recent research showed that aye-ayes are more widely distributed than previously thought and sightings have increased, but they need very large home ranges and seem to be rare wherever they occur.
We are currently helping to build a new field station in Madagascar. The Ankarafa field station in the north-western Sahamalaza-Iles Radama National Park, where aye-ayes occur, will provide a research base for conservationists and scientists who are working to help lemurs, of which more than 90 per cent are threatened with extinction.
The Society has worked in the country – one of the world’s most important hotspots for biodiversity – since 2006. To date it has carried out lemur behavioural ecology and conservation medicine studies, sacred ibis surveys, evaluation of reforestation efforts, and vegetation surveying.
This work is overseen by Bristol Zoological Society’s chief zoological officer, Dr Christoph Schwitzer, who is a world-leading lemur expert and Deputy Chair of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group.
Bristol Zoological Society is a conservation and education charity which runs and operates Bristol Zoo Gardens and its sister attraction, Wild Place Project. It relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the Zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents. To find out more, visit www.bristolzoo.org.uk
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