It’s a boy! The Duke Lemur Center is so excited to welcome Binx, the newest critically endangered aye-aye born in human care! All aye-ayes born at the DLC receive a spooky or magical name from their caretaker, and Binx is no exception. Binx was named by his technician Jenna Browning after the boy-turned-black-cat character from the Disney Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus.
With fewer than 30 aye-ayes in North America, every new addition is a cause for celebration. Binx’s birth is extra special, as he is the first male aye-aye born at the Duke Lemur Center since 2011. With a small population in human care, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan recommendations ensure the genetic diversity and health of all lemurs born as part of our conservation breeding program. Binx’s mother, Fady, is especially important for genetic diversity, as she is unrelated to any other aye-aye housed at the Duke Lemur Center.
Binx was born on January 15, 2022. Aye-ayes can be shy, so much of their behavior is observed by caretakers through cameras placed in their enclosures. Fady’s caretaker Jenna was watching the camera in her room the night of Binx’s birth and noticed Fady spending a significant amount of time building her nest before settling down earlier than usual. The next morning, the first keepers to arrive at the DLC confirmed Jenna’s suspicions by finding a healthy baby boy in Fady’s nest!
Since aye-ayes build nest structures out of branches and leaves for their young, it can be difficult to catch a glimpse of their infants. To make sure Binx is growing well, animal care staff perform regular weight checks while mom is away from the nest, quickly examining the infant and replacing him before she can become stressed.
From his first few appointments, it was clear that Binx was packing on the grams! His early weight gains were impressive even to experienced veterinary staff like Dr. Laura Ellsaesser, who could not believe the scale when Binx quadrupled his birth weight in just 30 days, a milestone that has taken up to seven weeks for other aye-aye infants to achieve. “Binx is thriving,” she says, noting that “when he is examined, he is vocal, strong, and showing all the signs we look for in a healthy infant.” She credits mom Fady for her attentive care and willingness to allow Binx plenty of nursing time.
Fady is also taking good care of herself, eating all of her favorite treats and not showing any signs that she is working herself too hard taking care of her new arrival. Her weight is healthy and she spends her day alternating between sitting in the nest feeding Binx and foraging around her enclosure feeding herself. Fady is also an incredible animal when it comes to positive reinforcement training. During her pregnancy, Fady received voluntary ultrasounds so her caretakers could measure the development of her infant.
Binx’s arrival is a little bittersweet, as he was born less than a year after Winifred, the DLC’s most recent infant aye-aye, passed away from cancer. While cancer can have many causes, early research has indicated that Winifred’s illness was likely caused by a random cellular mutation and was not genetic. Still, the team of oncologists and veterinary professionals that cared for Winifred continue to study her case, providing insight that could help treat other young lemurs in the future.
In Hocus Pocus, Winifred Sanderson cast a spell on Thackery Binx that turned him into a cat. Binx’s name serves as a reminder of the spell Winnie cast of all of us here at the DLC, and everyone who loved her from all over the world.
Ask an Expert: If you’d like to learn even more about this amazing species, or how we care for moms and infants here at the DLC, then we suggest checking out our Ask an Expert virtual program!
Symbolically Adopt an Aye-aye: Did you know you can symbolically adopt Agatha, an aye-aye born at the DLC in 2017, through the DLC’s Adopt a Lemur Program? Your adoption goes toward the $8,400 per year cost it takes to care for each lemur at the DLC, as well as aiding our conservation efforts in Madagascar. You’ll also receive quarterly updates and photos, making this a fun, educational gift that keeps giving all year long! Please visit our Adopt a Lemur homepage to learn more.