The Brookfield Zoo has welcomed a new animal to its family: a baby aardvark. The Illinois zoo announced Thursday that the baby aardvark was born on Jan. 12 and has successfully grown to nearly 13 pounds thanks to the dedicated care of zookeepers and veterinarians. It is the first aardvark to be born at the zoo in a decade.
The baby aardvark weighed approximately 4.5 pounds at birth, but has grown into a healthy calf. It has yet to be named as zookeepers remain unsure of its sex.
Aardvarks are very fragile in the first few weeks of their lives. To ensure the new calf's survival, the Brookfield Zoo was very careful to assist mother aardvark, Jessi, in rearing her calf. Since its birth, veterinarians have given the fragile baby around-the-clock care, including extra hydration, neonatal exams and supplemental feeding with a special formula imitating the mother's milk.
Veterinarians were careful to mimic the aardvark's natural cycle. In nature, the nocturnal aardvark mother forages for food at night as her calf sleeps. The calf then nurses from its mother during the day as she sleeps. Zoo veterinarians cared for the calf at night while Jessi was awake. During the day, the calf would nurse from his mother as she slept.
Little is known about the strange aardvarks. The odd-looking animals are native to parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Aardvarks are nocturnal and avoid the hot sun by foraging for food at night. They rely heavily on their senses of smell and hearing, which may explain their long ears and protruding snouts. In Afrikaans, aardvark means earth pig, an appropriate name for the creature, which likes to burrow in the ground looking for food. The creature can eat 90,000 insects a day. Aardvarks use their claws to find termites, ants and wild fruits that grow underground and slurp the food with their long, sticky tongue.
The new baby aardvark will not be on display at the Brookfield Zoo for a few months, but the Zoo will be offering a webcam where online viewers can watch as the young aardvark grows.
There have been nine aardvarks born at the Brookfield zoo since 1992, but the new addition is the first since 2002. The baby aardvark's mother, Jessi, and father, Hoover, were brought together at the Brookfield Zoo as loans from other zoos through a breeding program.
The Brookfield Zoo is home to four other aardvarks, including Bernaard, 28, one of the oldest living aardvarks in the population. There are 28 aardvarks in zoos across North America.
Watch the video of the Brookfield Zoo's newest baby aardvark and his mother:
Related Article: Siku Baby Polar Bear Melts Hearts As Cute Videos Go Viral [VIDEO]