On the 16th of May, an extremely unusual addition joined Africa Alives! interesting and varied animal collection. A baby aardvark entered the world at approximately 11am, when mum Boo gave birth in the outside enclosure, in full view of watching visitors. The actual birth process is very rarely witnessed where aardvarks are concerned and this is the first ever successful birth at the park, so those who saw it were very privileged indeed. Animal keeping staff were soon on the scene and quickly got baby and mum Boo into the specially prepared off-show ‘cubbing’ area, in order to give them all the privacy, care and medical attention necessary.
Aardvarks are particularly hard to rear in captivity and so we could not be sure how Boo was going to react to her baby. However, with a lot of assistance from her keepers, Boo allows the baby to feed from her when at rest during the day, and for a while, supplementary bottle feeds were also provided day and night by her keepers but are now only occasionally given during the day.
Females are pregnant for approximately seven months before giving birth to normally one baby. The baby weighs approximately 2kg at birth, and is hairless with pink, tender skin and will not eat solid food until around three months of age. Although the eyes open within days of being born, the baby’s eyesight is very poor.
Due to their nocturnal behaviour patterns, witnessing actual mating’s is not common where aardvarks are concerned and due to their build and shape, pregnancy itself is very difficult to detect. It is a rare treat to see aardvarks in a zoo, but it is even rarer for a zoo to successfully breed them and with this birth, Africa Alive! is only the second U.K zoo and one of only a handful of European zoo’s to do so and therefore, it should come as no surprise that we are very proud of our new baby aardvark.’
Our aardvarks are part of a managed European breeding programme, which is coordinated by Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands and it is their job to ensure the genetic health of the captive population. Therefore, it is highly likely, that once the baby is weaned and approaching sexual maturity, we will receive a recommendation for it to be transferred to another collection, either in the U.K or in Europe, in order to help create another potential breeding pair.
The baby is not on public show at the moment, but weather and circumstances permitting, we are hoping to be able to let guests get a first glimpse of baby during our annual ‘Africa by Night’ special open evening which takes place this Saturday 24th June (see our website for details).’ After that, we are hoping to be able to start letting guests see Boo and her baby daily from Sunday 25th June when again, weather and circumstances permitting, they will be given access to the outside enclosure of the aardvark facility at 11.15am and 4pm for a limited period only. At the same time, a keeper, along with our education department will be present to answer any questions you may have with regards to the baby or aardvarks in general.