Daubentonia madagascariensis

Unless you frequent Madagascar, it’s unlikely you’ve encountered one of the most exciting, threatening, and thereby shunned mammals on the planet: a lemur called the aye-aye.

Ah, the aye-aye, poor pariah. The aye-aye is not shy, no: He marches around with abandon, or rather, wheels through the forest trees, in front of people. People in Madagascar, though, do not march around with abandon in front of the aye-aye. Instead, they regard him with absolute horror and as an omen of evil.

If an aye-aye is seen in a village in Madagascar, villagers make an effort to kill him. If the effort doesn’t work, villagers pack up their things and abandon their village in a collective exodus—anything to avoid the onslaught of wickedness the aye-aye is believed to bring, which mostly includes death.

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—Meredith Phillips

Meredith Phillips, a Brooklyn writer, lives in the company of one multifaceted animal.

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