On January 28, an Aardvark was born at BIOPARC Valencia in Spain. The birth increased the number of this particular family at the park to a total of five, which includes the parents and two other females (also born in the park).
The new mom is taking excellent care of the new cub, and staff reports that supplemental care and feeding are not required for the new Aardvark. However, keepers constantly monitor the cub’s weight and work to assure that the appropriate temperature and humidity are provided in the new families den. Every night a thorough review of the animal takes place and the cub is cleaned, weighed and its skin is moisturized.
If the cub continues the current healthy pattern of growth and development, he may be placed on-exhibit in time for the park’s 9th anniversary. (In February, BIOPARC Valencia celebrates 9 years of love for nature and will show their appreciation to the public by offering discounted admission rates.)
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 of Threatened Species. According the IUCN, “Potential threats to the species have not been quantified. However, the bush meat 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).”