The 2008 IUCN Red List assessment classified D. madagascariensis as Near Threatened (NT), a status that we believe to be incorrect. Based on more recent evidence, we believe that it should now be placed back in the Endangered category. Once regarded as one of the world’s most endangered mammals, the aye-aye has now been shown to be much more widespread than previously believed. Half a century ago, some experts thought it might even be extinct, until a population was discovered in the Ambato Mahambo Forest in eastern Madagascar in 1957, although that population ultimately vanished (Petter and Petter, 1967; Petter and Peyriéras, 1970b). In the mid-1960s, nine animals were trapped in coastal forests between Toamasina (= Tamatave) and Maroantsetra and introduced onto the island of Nosy Mangabe as a safety measure to prevent its extinction. Whether the species formerly existed on the island remains uncertain, but later expeditions confirmed that the animal had survived there and appeared to be reproducing (Bomford, 1976, 1981; Constable et al., 1985), and this population still exists today.
Despite the aye-aye’s wide distribution, it is still killed in some areas as a harbinger of evil and as a crop pest (e.g., coconuts, lychees). Habitat destruction also threatens it
throughout its range (Albignac, 1987; Harcourt and Thornback, 1990; Simons, 1993; Simons and Meyers, 2001; Koenig, 2005), with trees such as Intsia bijugia and Canarium madagascariensis, dietary staples for the aye-aye, being cut preferentially for the construction of boats, houses, and coffins (Pollock et al., 1985; Iwano and Iwakawa, 1988). Recent evidence also indicates that it is hunted for food in some areas (e.g., Makira, C. Golden, pers. comm.).
Daubentonia madagascariensis is reported to occur in close to 30 protected areas, including 13 national parks (Andohahela, Andringitra, Mananara-Nord, Mantadia, Marojejy, Masoala, Midongy du Sud, Montagne d’Ambre, Ranomafana, Sahamalaza-Iles Radama, Tsingy de Bemaraha, Tsingy de Namoroka, and Zahamena), four strict nature reserves (Betampona, Tsaratanana, Tsingy de Bemaraha, and Zahamena), and 13 special reserves (Ambatovaky, Analamazaotra, Analamerana, Anjanaharibe-Sud, Ankarana, Bora, Forêt d’Ambre, Kalambatritra, Manombo, Manongarivo, Marotandrano, Nosy Mangabe, and Pic d’Ivohibe) (Nicoll and Langrand, 1989; Mittermeier et al., 1994; Rakotoarison, 1995b; Sterling and Ramaroson, 1996; Schmid and Smolker, 1998; Britt et al., 1999; Thalmann et al., 1999; CBSG, 2002; Randriananbinina et al., 2003c; Rahajanarina and Dollar, 2004; Schwitzer and Lork, 2004; N. Garbutt, pers. comm.; P. C. Wright, pers. comm.). In addition, the aye-aye has been sighted in the northeastern forests of Daraina (part of the newly-declared Loky-Manambato Protected Area) (Randrianarisoa et al., 1999), as well as in the Anjiamangirana and Maroala Classified Forests (E. E. Louis Jr., pers. obs.). Although the aye-aye occurs in many protected areas, its presence is often based only on signs and infrequent sightings, so there is little understanding of population size and dynamics. There is an urgent need for a systematic census of this animal throughout its range, with the ultimate objective of developing a conservation action plan for the species.
As of 2010 there were approximately 50 aye-ayes in various zoological collections worldwide (ISIS, 2009).