San Diego Zoo welcomes precious newborn aardvark, first born in 35 years

The San Diego Zoo celebrated a very special arrival recently, one they haven’t experienced in three decades: a baby aardvark was born, the first born at the zoo in 35 years!

According to a press release, the female cub arrived on May 10, and is now doing well. “We are elated to have this little cub in our care,” said Cari Inserra, lead wildlife care specialist at the San Diego Zoo.

In addition to being the first aardvark birth in three decades for the zoo, it’s also the first child for parents Zola and Azaan. According to the zoo, new mom Zola is a “caring and attentive mother.”

Ken Bohn, June 10, 2022, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

“Zola is an excellent mother, and nurses her cub frequently,” Cari Inserra said.

With her doting mom taking care of her, the aardvark cub is already developing healthy and strong.

“She is very active, and was using her sharp claws to dig like an adult aardvark, just hours after her birth,” Inserra said. “The cub is developing quickly and has tripled her birth weight from just over 4 pounds to over 13 pounds in just five weeks.”

According to the press release, the aardvark will grow to weigh up 140 pounds when fully grown. She will nurse from her mother for about six months, and begin eating insects after two or three months.

Ken Bohn, June 10, 2022, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Aardvarks are a nocturnal mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. Their name translates to “earth pig.” They are known for their long, pig-like snout which they use to sniff out food. They also have a long, sticky tongue, perfect for eating ants and termites. According to the zoo, adult aardvarks eat up to 50,000 insects in a single evening.

While the aardvark is listed as a “Least Concern” species on the IUCN Red List, they are still reportedly at risk due to habitat loss and hunting.

Zola and Azaan were paired as part of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). Their newborn cub is part of a careful plan to maintain the species’ population and ensure their survival.

Ken Bohn, June 10, 2022, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

The newborn and her mom are currently out-of-view at the zoo, as they bond during this critical time. But soon, they will be made available for viewing, and the zoo hopes that these species ambassadors will inspire people to care about aardvarks.

“We can’t wait until we are able to introduce the cub to our Zoo guests, helping them learn more about this remarkable species,” Inserra said.

What a beautiful newborn aardvark! Congrats to the San Diego Zoo on the first birth in 35 years.

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