The aye-aye is a creature thought so ugly that in its native jungle superstitious villagers beat it to death – but it has become the pride and joy of Bristol Zoo.
At first keepers wanted to call this baby Gollum, after its striking resemblance to the anti-hero of The Lord of Rings, but instead decided on Kintana, which means star in Madagascar, where the aye-aye originates.
These extraordinary nocturnal creatures are so rarely seen that they were once thought to have become extinct. Numbers are uncertain and they are listed in the international “red book” of endangered species.
Bristol is only one of two zoos in the world which have bred aye-ayes successfully and hopes the lessons learned will help to ensure the species’ survival.
“They do look like gremlins, and at first sight it is hard to believe they are real,” said Caroline Brown, senior keeper of small mammals at the zoo’s Twilight World. “Initially we were wary of getting too attached to Kintana but when he comes … across the cage in welcome and sits in your hand it is very hard not to.”