Burgers’ Zoo, in the Netherlands, recently welcomed a new Aardvark cub! The healthy baby was born the end of July and has been carefully monitored by zookeepers.
Burgers’ Zoo, under the authority of the EAZA, manages the European breeding program for the Aardvark. They are the only zoo in the Netherlands to house this special species.
The Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is a medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal that is native to Africa. It is the only living species of the order Tubulidentata.
The Aardvark is stout with a prominently arched back and is sparsely covered in coarse hair. The limbs are moderate length, with the rear legs being longer than the forelegs. Their weight is typically between 130 and 180 lbs. (60 and 80 kg). Their length is usually between 3.44 and 4.27 feet (105 and 130 cm). They are typically 24 inches tall (60 cm). The Aardvark is pale yellowish gray in color and often stained reddish brown by soil it sorts through. The coat is thin, and the skin is tough.
The Aardvark is nocturnal and feeds almost exclusively on ants and termites. They will emerge from their burrow in late afternoon and forage for food over a range of about 6 to 18 miles from home. While foraging, they keep the nose to ground and ears pointed forward. When concentrations of ants or termites are detected, the Aardvark digs into the mound with powerful front legs and will take up the insects with their long, sticky tongue. It is possible for the animal to take in as many as 50,000 ants and termites in one night.
The Aardvark is mostly quiet, but will make soft grunting sounds as it forages and louder grunts when engaged in burrowing.
Aardvarks have a gestation of about seven months. They generally give birth to a single cub from May to July. When born, the young have flaccid ears and many wrinkles. After two weeks, the folds of skin disappear and after three weeks the ears are upright. At 5-6 weeks, body hair starts growing. They are weaned by about 16 weeks, and can dig their own burrow by 6 months of age. The young often remain with the mother till the next mating season.
The Aardvark is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. However, they are a species in a precarious situation and are declining in number as their food supplies begin to dwindle.