Keepers at Jersey Zoo have stepped in to nurture a baby aye-aye after she was rejected by her mother, making her only the fifth of her kind to be hand-reared to this age.
Named ‘Mifaly’, meaning ‘playful’ in Malagasy to pay tribute to her inquisitive nature, the baby has relied on her keepers for the maternal touch she needs to thrive after her mother, Zanvie, rejected her.
Mifaly was welcomed to the zoo’s captive breeding programme for the endangered Madagascan lemur on 15 May, making her the second aye-aye baby to be born into the Durrell family this year.
However, this time around, zoo staff needed to intervene to ensure the survival of this precious youngster.
Video: Keepers capture precious early moments with the endangered lemur baby (Facebook/Jersey Zoo)
Sadly, the infant was rejected by its mother, and keepers had to step in to hand-rear the baby. Despite the zoo staff’s efforts to encourage Zanvie to care for her young, she appears to lack maternal instincts.
Speaking about the mother’s rejection, Senior Mammal Keeper, Rachel Cowen, said: “Unfortunately, Zanvie doesn’t seem to want to feed her offspring or curl up around them to keep them warm. Two of her infants have been successfully hand-reared before while Zanvie resided at Bristol Zoo, so we knew that we might have to hand-rear this baby.
“The global captive population of aye-ayes is quite small, and there aren’t very many females of breeding age in the European population, so it is still really important for Zanvie to breed, as she is the daughter of wild-born aye-aye Patrice, who was brought back from Madagascar by Gerald Durrell in 1990 and still lives at Jersey Zoo today.”
Mifaly is only the fifth aye-aye baby in the world to be fully hand-reared to this age and, despite being underweight when she was born, keepers say that she has progressed extremely well and has now more than trebled her birth weight.
Pictured: Despite being underweight when she was born, Mifaly has now more than trebled her birth weight (Jersey Zoo).
Mifaly’s birth brings the number of aye-ayes at the zoo to nine. Like many primates native to the island, the aye-aye is an endangered species. Given the precarious state of their population in the wild, this precious new baby is a welcome addition to the captive breeding programme.
Rachel continued: “It has been an incredible privilege to witness the infant’s growth and development, as normally baby aye-ayes stay hidden in the nest for the first couple of months, so we don’t get to see what they are doing in there! It’s been amazing to see how instinctive some of their behaviours are.
“She has recently started to ‘tap’ things in her box and then try to chew on them – this is her beginning to practice the percussive foraging behaviour that aye-ayes do in the wild, which enables them to access their favourite juicy grubs and insects from under the tree bark. She is incredibly playful and to have another female in the population is fantastic news for the conservation of this rare species.”
Her birth follows another aye-aye being born in March to mother Ala and father Pan. The young male is reportedly getting braver and more confident at moving around the enclosure but is still a little shy around the keepers.
Jersey Zoo is open to all visitors, with the majority of outdoor and indoor areas now open. Unfortunately, the aye-aye building is currently closed due to physical distancing measures, but keepers hope to open this enclosure again soon so that visitors can see this year’s exciting new arrivals.
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