Aye-ayes in Maraontsetra

In November 2013 I visited Madagascar, taking in the northwest, southwest and central forests as many bird/mammal groups do, before heading to the Masoala peninsular in the northeast. This involved an overnight stop in Maraontsetra, where our tour leader was able to organise an impromptu night excursion to a ‘community woodland’ with a local guide based (I think) at Relais du Masoala. This involved a visit to a nearby area of open, degraded forest and overgrown plantations which was crawling with small- and medium-sized lemurs (we were honestly picking up eye-shine every 25m or so at one point). And, incredibly, after a long wander around, we bumped into an Aye-aye! I won’t go into too many gory details as I don’t want everyone to hate me, but suffice to say it was truly mind-blowing and even a tick for the Tropical Birding guide, who lives in northern Madagascar. A photo taken by one of the other trip participants appears in the link below if you can face it:

http://www.tropicalbirding.com/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/Africa/Madagascar/TR_MadagascarSD_Nov2013.pdf

I’m not sure how reliable this site is – as is often the case with guides, we found it hard to get a straight answer regarding how often Aye-ayes are seen. He gave the impression that we had good chances but couldn’t clarify whether that meant 1 visit out of 50 or 9 visits out of 10, and then was nearly as excited as us when we spotted it! So who knows. Hopefully this will come in useful to future visitors, especially if I can be less vague and find out his contact details (which I will endeavour to do). He certainly knew his stuff, having sites for other critters like Tomato Frog, Panther Chameleon and Red Owl as well as the lemurs – which included the mega Hairy-eared, the local species of Sportive-Lemur, Greater Dwarf, and apparently more than one mouse lemur.

Apologies again if this is too gripping – if anyone wants any other info regarding sites and sightings let me know.

cheers

Mike

8 Comments
  1. Jurek 5 years ago

    I heard a story from one Madagascar guide – which may be just a tall tale – that some Malagasy have a pet aye-aye and put it on a tree in the forest to show as wild. If nobody else heard it, it is just a tale.

    • Profile photo of Jon Hall
      Jon Hall 5 years ago

      Sadly I think this is true Jurek. More on this later…

  2. Profile photo of John Fox
    John Fox 5 years ago

    Would an aye aye hanging around for an hour indicate a tame animal?

    I thought that was a brilliant trip report, in any event.

    • Profile photo of mikehoit Author
      mikehoit 5 years ago

      Hi all
      All the comments so far pretty much cover what we discussed at the time, insofar as ‘it’s all to good to be true’. Obviously one would always their sighting to be genuine, and there’s always the possibility of nefarious antics, but there really was no reason to suspect this. We were put for a couple of hours before we ran into the aye-aye, it was a productive area, and the guide was an astute spotter.
      Regarding John Fox’s comment, I actually suspect we were with it for well under an hour – it’s easy to overestimate. It was in a fruiting tree and froze in the spotlight, and remained motionless even when we turned torches off for ten minutes at a time; essentially it was isolated in a tree didn’t want to move, so after a while we left it alone.
      It would be a real shame if animals are being ‘put down’ for tourists in Madagascar, as all the guides I encountered were superb – they know to show tourists the obvious species, but by asking nicely they rustled up (for example) Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko and both Lowland Streaked and Lesser Hedgehog Tenrecs.
      All the best
      Mike

      • Profile photo of mikehoit Author
        mikehoit 5 years ago

        Hi all
        All the comments so far pretty much cover what we discussed at the time, insofar as ‘it’s all to good to be true’. Obviously one would always their sighting to be genuine, and there’s always the possibility of nefarious antics, but there really was no reason to suspect this. We were put for a couple of hours before we ran into the aye-aye, it was a productive area, and the guide was an astute spotter.
        Regarding John Fox’s comment, I actually suspect we were with it for well under an hour – it’s easy to overestimate. It was in a fruiting tree and froze in the spotlight, and remained motionless even when we turned torches off for ten minutes at a time; essentially it was isolated in a tree didn’t want to move, so after a while we left it alone. It’s probably also worth mentioning that the local guy was actually only hired to show us Red Owl – the lemurs were a bonus.
        It would be a real shame if animals are being ‘put down’ for tourists in Madagascar, as all the guides I encountered were superb – they know to show tourists the obvious species, but by asking nicely they rustled up (for example) Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko and both Lowland Streaked and Lesser Hedgehog Tenrecs.
        All the best
        Mike

  3. Profile photo of John Fox
    John Fox 5 years ago

    No, no, Mike. I cast no aspersions on your Aye Aye, I was more curious if the place you saw it had any related reports, like do Polar Bears fly?

    It really was a magnificent trip report, Tropical Birding and Madagascar went way up in my opinion, and learning that Malagasy is the adjectival form for Madagascar fascinates me in a way I can’t describe.

    After the polar regions, Madagascar it at the top of my list!

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