Tag Archives: Last Chance to See

Oh No-No, not the Aye-Aye now!

Aye-Aye (photo by Mark Carwardine)

Oh no, no no, it’s the Aye-Aye on the way out now!

Bet you’ve never heard of an Aye-Aye. It is the most unusual little fellow, living in Madagascar and is a type of lemur. Sadly, its days are numbered and it is rarely seen these days.

Deforestation and an unjustified fear of the little fellow has caused their demise.  Superstition surrounds the Aye-Aye’s elongated middle finger which it uses to probe into the bark of trees to extract  tasty grubs.

In fact, the Aye-Aye looks remarkably like ET (remember ‘ET phone home’?).  It has a cat’s body, a bat’s ears, a beaver’s teeth, a long bushy tail like that of a squirrel, a middle finger like a long dead twig and enormous, bright, beady eyes.

The Aye-Aye is the world’s largest nocturnal primate. It sleeps during the day, but comes out after dark to move nimbly about the treetops in the forest canopies of Madagascar. It has a good head for heights. It also has a positive approach to sexual equality because the females wear the trousers in the Aye-Aye’s world, exerting dominance over males and having first pick of all the best sources of food.

Read about the Aye-Aye here http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee/sites/animals/ayeaye and see the video clip of the Aye-Aye searching for grubs with its amazing ET finger!

Last weekend I saw a programme by Stephen Fry called Last Chance to See  http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee.

The animal featured was the Amazonian Manatee. 

It is a mammal and had the most amazing teeth. Because it is a vegetarian and eats 10% of its body weight in plant life every day, the plants have retaliated by adding a lot of silica to their structure. This silica wears down the Manatee’s teeth. However the Manatee have a self sufficient dental system. They have a conveyor belt of teeth. As teeth wear out they are replaced by new teeth which move in from the back of their jaw.  How handy! And wouldn’t it save a fortune in dental bills?

They are very large sea creatures – like a sea elephant – and very strange in appearance, so much so that they have been mistaken for mermaids.

Although the Amazon used to teem with them, they are sadly very rarely sighted these days.  They were over hunted, have drowned in fishing nets and have suffered from deforestation of the Amazon jungle and dam building.

They are gentle, slow moving creatures and the world will be a poorer place without them.  Fortunately, there are some very dedicated people working to save the manatee from extinction but they have their work cut out for them.  In the Stephen Fry episode that I saw, they were rehabilitating a manatee that had sustained a number of machete cuts.

Read about them on http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee/sites/animals/manatees

Australia has their own Manatees – the Dugong or Sea Cow. In fact, the Dugong and the Manatee are the representatives of the living species of the order Sirenia. Strangely, the Dugong and the Manatee are related to the elephant.

The Dugong

The Dugong can be found in warm coastal waters from East Africa to Australia, including the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Pacific.

Just like the Manatee, Dugongs make an easy target for coastal hunters, and they were long sought for their meat, oil, skin, bones, and teeth. The Dugong is a protected mammal from all but Aboriginals and unfortunately it is considered to be an Aboriginal rite of passage to kill one so the future for the Dugong does not look bright.

Dugongs are vegetarians. Dugongs graze on underwater grasses day and night, rooting for them like a vacuum cleaner with their bristled, sensitive snouts and chomping them with their rough lips.

I discovered an interesting blog by someone else on this matter http://bighappynothing.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/lets-hope-dugongs-wont-be-dugone-someday/

Read more about them on http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/dugong.

So many beautiful and fascinating animals, fish, birds and even insects, are on the verge of extinction. All that will one day be left will be cockroaches I suppose.

It’s all very well for us all to say that it’s sad but unfortunately, jungles and forests are being hacked down at unprecedented rates and there are such huge amounts that are paid for the parts of certain animals (read  https://roslynmotter.com/2010/06/23/one-hell-of-a-beauty to see what special contribution Elle MacPherson has made to the conservation of the rhino (I jest of course)) that there is not really much hope. In this case the forces of evil are stronger than the forces of good.



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