In a very remote village unlike any other, far away from all people on an island off the coast of Africa near Madagascar lived an old native woman that everyone called Hasina. All the native people called her their prophet of sorts because she was able to communicate with the unseen spirits. Using her abilities she could tell them what or who was causing their illness. She kept an assortment of items she used to cleanse her people from evil spirits, heal their bodies and minds, and help them be restored to a wholesome life.
Hasina was married to a chief of the tribe named Haja. Haja made all decisions for the tribe and everyone came to him for advice and counsel. Haja had lived in his village all of his life as did his parents before him. He was very familiar with all the ways of the native people and worked very hard to keep his village clean and well provided for. He made sure each man was a hunter and each woman took care of children. The women also cooked and provided comfort for her family. The hunters searched for food and built the shelters in which the natives lived.
Because the rainforest was being cultivated and deforested many of the animals were uprooted from their homes. Many violated the space where the natives lived because they had no home themselves. Among the animals living there were the monkeys, bamboo, flying fox, the mongoose, crocodiles, insects of different kinds just to name a few. They had made the island their home for centuries and populated the rainforest well. Now because of the land being cleared and the trees cut, the animals had to find new homes or become extinct.
It was here in the native camp that Hasina encountered a rodent type of animal the natives called the aye-aye. It normally lived in the canopy areas of the rainforest usually found in some of the highest trees. It sleeps during the day and searches for food during the night hours. It had a monkey-like body which enabled it to climb trees, make vertical leaps much like a squirrel. Upright movements seemed more difficult so they rarely descended from the trees to walk on the floor of the rainforest. The hunters reported infants that hung upside down performing various acrobatic moves just like their parents. It appeared the females were more dominate over the males often marking areas with the scents from their cheeks and necks. This let others know that the aye-aye was in the area and would drive intruders from their territory.
The aye -aye began to search for food only minutes after the sunset and spent nearly all the night gathering food. Occasionally they would stop and rest for a while then resume their hunts. They searched for nuts, insect larvae, fruits, nectar, seeds, and such from the trees.
One of Hasina’s stories tells of the aye-aye aggressively pillaging through the village stealing coconuts, mangoes, sugar cane, eggs and plants they were growing.
“I’ve seen those devils tap on the trunks of a tree like a woodpecker and listen for movement inside. When they find a hollow chamber, they chew a hole into the wood and get grubs out with their narrow bony middle fingers. They are evil creatures and a symbol of death to all our people.” Hasina quickly reported.
“Our hunters kill them on sight. If they point their narrow middle finger at someone, that person is condemned to death unless it can be killed quickly. They sneak into our huts through the thatched roofs and kill sleeping villagers by using their sharp middle finger to poke a hole in the victim’s largest vein in the neck. The next morning the sleeping native has bled to death while they were sleeping. It is an evil rodent and we will kill everyone we see.” Haja continued.
Was this a superstition of the natives or are the aye-aye really evil seeking to destroy the natives because the natives are allowing them to be killed by hunters?
“It’s the evil middle finger we have to watch out for.” Hasina shouted loudly. “Even the air around them stinks and they carry all sorts of evil around with them. We will not allow any more of our people to be killed in their sleep.”
“They are sneaky and fast. We have to stay alert at all times because they don’t mind coming right up to you and look you in the eye. We will kill them and eat their meat destroying them one by one.” Haja reminded the natives.
So it came to be that the rodent like monkey who lost its home to developers has been driven higher and higher into the canopy of the rainforest in order to find food and to survive.
If you see one of these hairy creatures with big eyes staring at you or holding up his bony finger in your direction it might be a good time to run. No one knows for sure if this rodent is truly evil or just an odd sort of animal found in the rainforest off the coast of Africa.
Question: How does the aye-aye get grubs out of a tree?
Written by Sybil Shearin
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