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Aye-aye
Daubentonia madagascariensis

CONSERVATION STATUS

CITES: Appendix I (What is CITES?)
IUCN Red List: D. madagascariensis: NT (What is Red List?)
Key: NT = Near threatened
(Click on species name to see IUCN Red List entry, including detailed status assessment information.)

Daubentonia madagascariensis
Photo: David Haring

The aye-aye is seen as a priority for conservation as it represents the only surviving member of the Daubentoniidae Family. Its level of protection is grounded on an attempt to preserve it as the only surviving member of a unique evolutionary history (Feistner & Carroll 1993).

CONSERVATION THREATS

Threat: Human Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

As with most other primates, the most serious threat to the aye-aye is habitat loss. Expanding human populations and economic factors are causing encroachment into forested areas. Largely due to human action, over 80% of Madagascar is now covered with prairie, and vast forests are now gone (Feistner & Carroll 1993). This is predicted to bring the aye-aye into contact with humans more and more (Sterling & Feistner 2000). All of this is exacerbated by the fact that aye-ayes occur at low densities anyway so that any habitat loss will serve to further isolate already dispersed populations.

Threat: Persecution

Within Madagascar, there is a widespread cultural belief that aye-ayes are harbingers of bad luck and must be killed on sight (Simons & Meyers 2001). There is significant regional variation in beliefs about the aye-aye, but generally they are taboo, and if sighted, some sort of action must be taken to mitigate potentially ill effects (Petter 1977; Harcourt & Thornback 1990; Feistner & Carroll 1993; Sterling & Feistner 2000; Simons & Meyers 2001; Mittermeier et al. 2006). Unfortunately for the aye-aye, often the action taken to prevent bad luck is to kill the animal (Harcourt & Thornback 1990; Feistner & Carroll 1993; Petter 1997; Sterling & Feistner 2000; Simons & Meyers 2001). Once killed, the aye-aye is then sometimes eaten in accordance with the beliefs of certain groups (Simons & Meyers 2001). In stark contrast to the negative widespread beliefs, at least one region in the southeast of the island views aye-ayes as harbingers of good luck due to a supposed human origin for the species (Sterling & Feistner 2000).

Aye-ayes are also killed in retaliation for crop-raiding, having been observed in one case to destroy 80-100% of the coconut crop in two villages (Andriamasimanana 1994). Coupled with the widespread cultural beliefs, this poses a serious ongoing threat to aye-aye populations. Unfortunately, with decreasing habitat, aye-ayes will be forced into more frequent contact with humans, which will likely exacerbate these problems.

LINKS TO MORE ABOUT CONSERVATION

CONSERVATION INFORMATION

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Content last modified: July 27, 2007

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Eleanor Sterling.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2007 July 27. Primate Factsheets: Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) Conservation . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/aye-aye/cons>. Accessed 2014 July 23.