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Anne Hilborn @AnneWHilborn
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NEXT UP: 2nd seeded Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) vs 10th seeded Aye Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) #2018MMM
In the last battles, the cheetah ate the dunnart and the aye aye unnerved the coatimundi so much it retreated. Our scene is once again the Serengeti plains and once again the (still) hungry cheetah is being followed by a researcher named Anne. Aye aye pic=Nick Garbutt #2018MMM
The sun is setting. Cheetahs are mostly active during the day and Anne had based much of her PhD fieldwork on the idea that they would stay put at night to avoid lions and hyenas. Whoo-ee was she wrong (a theme for her PhD). Turns out cheetahs can move a lot at night #2018MMM
In contrast, aye ayes are fully nocturnal and they too move a lot at night. Elizabeth Sterling found males could move up to 4 km at night, traveling through trees and on the ground #2018MMM…
As dusk falls, Anne gives up on following the cheetah and drives off to set up her camp. After sniffing all other major trees in his territory, the cheetah visits a grove of yellow fever trees to see if any intruder males or females in heat (estrus) have passed that way #2018MMM
The chance of smelling out another cheetah isn’t super high, cheetah live at low population densities. @sdurant and co estimate that globally there are around 7000 cheetahs left, and recommend the IUCN change their designation to Endangered #2018MMM…
The aye aye is rated as endangered but we don’t really know how many there are in the wild (counting rare mammals with dark fur in trees at night is…. hard). Habitat loss is a major problem for both species but they also have other, more uncommon, threats #2018MMM
There are different customs (fomba) concerning aye-ayes. In some areas, killing them is considered taboo (fady). So depending on the region, this can mean aye-ayes might be left alone, or killed for bringing bad luck. #2018MMM…
Cheetahs have a different issue. Young cubs are stolen from the wild in E & NE Africa to supply the pet trade. They're transported in awful conditions, and many do not survive. Although cheetah are not aggressive, no wild animal should be a pet #2018MMM…
Another difference between the two is that the aye-aye has the largest brain-to-body ratio of any lemur. Which cannot be said of cheetahs who have been called "pin headed" by the mean spirited. Leading to the fun game of #CheetahOrBowlingPin #2018MMM…
No other cheetah has passed the grove. The cheetah jumps into a tree with a low branch to survey his territory. With their spindly legs and dull claws, cheetah are not adapted for tree climbing or lounging, but he makes a decent show of it. #2018MMM…
The aye aye is in the same tree, knuckle deep in a hole, the tip of his finger nail just about to pierce a juicy maggot. He freezes when he senses the cheetah but the cheetah looks up and sees what he takes for a massive yet wizened bushbaby (which inhabit the grove) #2018MMM
Surprised, the cheetah does an inelegant leap backwards while swatting at the aye aye and they fall out of the tree together. #2018MMM
Here's a close up of the aye aye falling #TheFingerWontSaveYou #2018MMM
After recovering his dignity, the cheetah sniffs at the dilapidated pile of fur to check its edibility. It isn’t similar any of his usual foods, but cheetahs (especially young ones) try to hunt many ‘inappropriate prey items” (Caro 1994) #2018MMM
The aye aye snaps at him with teeth that can chew through concrete, and crawls off, but this only triggers the cheetah’s instinct to chase.

To pat.

To bite.

One swift bite to the head and the aye aye is no more. Used to chewing up the legs of gazelle fawns, the cheetah treats the aye aye’s spindly fingers like particularly crunchy cheese straws. #2018MMM
But he misses one, and the moon glints off the nail of the severed finger which lies on the ground pointing accusingly at the cheetah’s rump as he swishes off, still hungry. #2018MMM
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