BIOPARC Valencia is the first zoo in Spain to breed the Aardvark. On March 4, they welcomed a new member of this rare species.
The new cub spends valuable time with his attentive mother, but zoo staff follow special protocol in monitoring the new baby. Keepers work to ensure the proper cleanliness of the baby and also provide special care for his skin, which includes needed moisturization and a special humidifier. During the day, while mother is sleeping, staff keep a careful eye to maintain that the baby is nursing every two hours.
The new cub was the zoo’s first baby for the month of March. The cub and mother are currently off-exhibit, but, with the continued healthy progress of the baby, staff anticipate visitors being able to view them very soon.
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.
According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature): “Aardvarks were originally thought to be congeneric with the South American Anteaters (Myrmecophaga), until they were put in their own genus: Orycteropus. After 1872, Aardvarks were also put in their own order: the Tubulidentata. But this order was long considered to be closely related to the Xenarthrans and the Pangolins in the now obsolete clade "Edentata" (Lehmann 2007). It is only since the beginning of the 20th century, that Aardvarks have been considered to be basal "ungulates". It was also at this time that the seven then recognized species were merged into the single species Orycteropus afer (Shoshani et al. 1988). Since then, Tubulidentata is the only order of Mammals to be represented by a single living species. To date, 18 subspecies have been described (Meester 1971). However, their validity is doubtful and studies in this regard are ongoing. Finally, at the turn of the millennium, molecular phylogenetic analyses integrated the Aardvarks into the new super-cohort Afrotheria, next to Elephants, Hyraxes, Sea-cows, Sengis, Tenrecs, and Golden Moles.”
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 of Threatened Species. According the IUCN, “Potential threats to the species have not been quantified. However, the bushmeat trade in African savannas may pose a genuine threat to Aardvark populations in some countries (e.g. Zambia, Mozambique). Localized threats include habitat loss due to agriculture and subsistence hunting…The meat is prized, while other parts of the Aardvark, such as the skin, claws and teeth, are used to make bracelets, charms and curios, and for some medicinal purposes (Carpaneto and Germi 1989).”