What has big eyes and a long, slightly creepy finger? If you guessed E.T., you’re wrong (but actually not that far off in the looks department). We're talking about the aye-aye, a rare lemur native to Madagascar. Last month, the San Diego Zoo welcomed one of these strange-looking yet adorable animals to its family.

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Image: San Diego Zoo

Born in early September, the female aye-aye, named Fady (pronounced FAW-DEE), weighed in at just 3.6 ounces, but has since packed on some weight, which is a sign that the mother is taking good care of the newborn – something zoo staff are particularly excited about.

“Aye-ayes are extremely rare in zoological settings,” explains Mindy Settles, the zoo’s primate keeper. “Only a handful of zoos in the US house these animals. Fady’s birth on September 8 marks the first aye-aye baby born at the San Diego Zoo. Counting this infant, there are only 27 aye-ayes in North America.” 

The aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) might look tiny, but at six feet (two metres) nose to tail, it’s actually the world’s largest nocturnal primate. Its appearance is so bizarre that scientists originally classified it as a rodent. 

Its strangest feature? Those long fingers tipped with curved, claw-like nails. The middle digit, even thinner and longer than the rest, is used for what’s known as "percussive foraging": aye-ayes use the finger to tap on branches and listen for hollow spots where insects and larvae might hide. Once they locate their soon-to-be dinner, strong upper incisors help them tear through the tree bark. The finger can also be used like a built-in spoon to scoop flesh out of coconuts and other fruit.

Sadly, the animals are in trouble in the wild and are classified as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN. Deforestation in particular is a major threat to a species that makes its nests high in the treetops and spends most of its life off the ground. Local superstitions that paint the aye-ayes as omens of death mean that the tiny lemurs are often killed on sight by villagers, despite existing protections.