San Diego Zoo Welcomes an Aardvark Cub
June 14, 2022
SAN DIEGO (June 14, 2022) – The San Diego Zoo has announced the birth of an aardvark cub—the first be born at the Zoo in more than 35 years. The female cub, yet to be named, was born May 10 to first-time aardvark parents, mother Zola and father Azaan. Wildlife care specialists report the cub is doing well, and Zola is a caring and attentive mother.
Photos taken on June 10, 2022 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
“We are elated to have this little cub in our care,” said Cari Inserra, lead wildlife care specialist, San Diego Zoo. “She is very active, and was using her sharp claws to dig like an adult aardvark, just hours after her birth.”
Inserra added “ Zola is an excellent mother, and nurses her cub frequently. The cub is developing quickly and has tripled her birth weight from just over 4 pounds to over 13 pounds in just five weeks. We can’t wait until we are able to introduce the cub to our Zoo guests, helping them learn more about this remarkable species.”
Native to sub-Saharan Africa, the aardvark is a unique species of mammal. The name aardvark is derived from Afrikaans, and is literally translated to mean “earth pig.” Their strong front legs and long claws are adapted for digging burrows. They are nocturnal, for the most part, spending the daylight hours in their dark burrows and coming out in the evening to feed on ants and termites that they slurp up with their long, sticky tongue. An adult aardvark may eat up to 5o,ooo insects in a single evening.
Aardvarks periodically leave their burrows and make new ones. The old burrows create refuge for many other savanna species, including African wild dogs, jackals, honey badgers, hyenas and reptiles.
Born hairless with wrinkly, pink skin and floppy ears, at five weeks old, the cub’s skin is beginning to smooth and she has tall ears, the typical aardvark pig-like snout, a long, strong tail and poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell. She rarely leaves her mother’s side, and will nurse from Zola for about six months. The cub will begin eating insects after two to three months. When full grown in about a year, she will be independent, and could weigh up to 140 pounds.
This cub was born to parents who were paired through a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), designed to help maintain a healthy assurance population of this species. Aardvarks are classified as a species of Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, despite the fact the total population of aardvarks is not known as they are rarely seen, due to their nocturnal and secretive habits. They are currently at risk due to human population growth causing loss of habitat, and hunting.
The cub and Zola will remain in an off-view habitat for about two months, while they bond. As wildlife ambassadors for their species, when Zola is ready, she will bring her cub outside, and guests may see them during a wildlife presentation at the Africa Rocks stage. Zola and her cub can help guests learn more about aardvarks, helping inspire people to protect all wildlife and their habitats.