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September 17, 2018

Rare newborn animal became the star of Denver Zoo, stealing visitors' hearts

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On August 8, the Denver Zoo welcomed a new animal named Tonks. She’s a member of one of the lemur family known as the aye-aye.

It was born to mother Bellatrix and father Smeagol. The animal’s birth is quite exciting as they’re endangered in their native home of Madagascar. 

There are just 24 of these animals in zoos across the whole country. No one knows how many there are in the wild.

These nocturnal primates have lost an estimated 50 percent of their population over the last few decades due to habitat loss and hunting. Seeing an aye-aye in the wild is very rare.

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For more on this story go to our Twitter account @amomama_usa. Tonks was named after the “Harry Potter” character Nymphadora Tonks.

Her mother was named after “Harry Potter's” Bellatrix Lestrange while her father was named after “The Lord of the Rings” Smeagol, or Gollum. She is over a month old now and thriving with her mother.

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The aye-aye almost didn’t make it in the beginning. Denver Zoo's Lead Primate Keeper Becky Sturges said,

"We noticed that Bellatrix wasn't showing typical mothering behaviors, so we decided to step in to give Tonks some supportive care."

That’s when they decided to provide 24-hour care for the first week and taught Bellatrix how to nurse. Now the mother is nursing well and Tonks has gained a lot of weight.

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Despite this, the staff is still monitoring them to make sure things keep going well. Aye-ayes live up to around 20 years in captivity.

They spend their first two or three months nesting with their mother before making their own way into the world. They are non-monogamous, and only have one baby at a time.

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While Tonks is in the nest, there will be no new babies. Aye-ayes have yellow-eyes, coarse-hair, big ears, and hook-hands.

Tonks being so tiny means she may nurse for another six months. Her little ears are still floppy but are expected to become more rigid very soon at about six weeks of age.

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The animal won’t be seen quite yet as she’ll be spending most of her time sleeping in the nest. However, she’s already won the hearts of the staff.

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Sturges said, "The primate team is enamoured and in love with Tonks. Everyone has had a part in helping her succeed. We're so happy that she's actually thriving."

Aye-ayes are known as percussive foragers. They drum on wood to find cavities, listening for the small telltale noises of grubs scurrying around inside.

Then they use their sharp incisors to gnaw the wood open and reach in with their long, thin middle finger to grab their prey.

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