Category — News
My introduction to Aardvarks was on Saturday mornings, when “Aardvark” chased a red ant named “Charlie”, always unsuccessful in catching his meal, in the cartoon “The Aardvark and the Ant”. I did like the Aardvark, although I must admit I rooted for the ant!
Later, I found out that Aardvarks aren’t blue and don’t wear shirts and shorts. They do eat ants and beetles, but the majority of the food they eat comes in the form of termites. They use their long and sharp claws on their front feet to dig into the hard ground and open termite mounds. A long, thin tongue is used to pick up the termites from the exposed tunnels. To make the process of eating thousands of termites more efficient the Aardvarks don’t chew their food (a lot like my bulldogs at home), and use the heavily muscled walls of their stomach to crush anything that they eat.
Aardvarks are solitary animals and spend most of their time out of their burrows at night. The burrows and the piles of dirt they excavate are important in providing dens and habitats for a large number of other animal and plant species. When they leave their burrows, Aardvarks will travel up to three miles in search of food, usually taking a path that zigzags through their home range. Aardvarks have scent glands and males are attracted to females in estrus when the female emits a particular scent. Females will give birth to a single offspring (sometimes twins are produced) after a seven month pregnancy and the male doesn’t help raise the young. The youngsters are born in the dens and will have their eyes open at birth and also have fully developed claws.
Because of their nocturnal habits, and the fact that they like to lead a more secretive life than the blue Aardvark I watched on Saturday morning, Aardvarks usually do not interact with humans. Unfortunately, farmers in Africa would prefer that these animals stay off of their property, since their burrows cause problems for livestock and the earthen dams that are built to contain water for the farms. Populations in Africa are hard to determine, due to that secretive lifestyle, and there is some concern that these animals are being taken for the bush meat trade.
Aardvarks are somewhat difficult to breed in captivity. Here at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden we have enjoyed a successful program involving the propagation of Aardvarks, over the last several decades. “Padmae”, our young female that is now almost four years old was acquired for use as one of the animals that walk through the Park to meet our guests, up close and personal. The keeper staff noticed that she became very active and there was a distinct odor that she was producing, in April of 2012. The thought was that she was probably in estrus, meaning that she was probably ovulating and could produce a baby if she mated with a male. Padmae was moved to the Veldt to visit with our breeding male Aardvark and remained there for several months. The staff noted that the pair did breed during the last week of August and into September. On December 18, 2012 an ultrasound was performed on her and it was confirmed that she is pregnant. Based on the sonogram, below, and the recorded breeding dates, we are expecting a baby Aardvark between April 15 and May 15, 2013.
In preparation for the birth of a baby Aardvark, which has been described as looking like an alien creature, we are making modifications to the area in the Children’s Zoo Nursery. A closed circuit surveillance system is being installed, so that volunteers can monitor Padmae as her due date approaches. A whelping box is going into her stall soon, so that she has a secure place to give birth. The Nursery Staff is getting ready too. Since the females roam so much at night, sometimes they are too active in a captive situation for a newborn. The staff will be ready to pull the baby, during the nighttime hours, hand feed the youngster, and place the infant back with the female when she would be caring for it in the den during the day.
Stay tuned! We will keep you up to date on Padmae’s progress and our hope is that this first time mother will produce a healthy baby, this spring. Stop by the Nursery, at the Children’s Zoo, to visit our expectant mother and see how well she is doing for yourself.
March 13, 2013 1 Comment
Each summer camp season we challenge our campers to collect and recycle more cell phones than any other Zoo camper to get kids active in our Eco-cell program and build awareness about how our efforts can really make a difference in global conservation. This year we had three young ladies–Cece, Lucy, and Avery– collect over 100 phones for our program. Their efforts were rewarded a couple of weeks ago when they came to the Zoo for a special treat. They met Zoo Director Thane Maynard and interacted with Primate Team Leader Ron Evans and one of the gorilla groups. They took home a super-sized plush gorilla as a reminder of their contribution to gorilla conservation.
How does recycling cell phones help save gorillas? Cell phones contain an ore called Coltan, which is mined in endangered gorilla habitat in Africa. Reducing the demand for Coltan lessens the negative impact the mining industry has on gorillas and their habitat. The Zoo’s Saving Species program recycled more than 19,000 cell phones through Eco-cell thanks to efforts of people like Cece, Lucy, and Avery. Got an old cell phone sitting in a drawer at your home? We’ll take it!
November 8, 2012 No Comments
Meet Cinder, Thatcher, and Magnolia – our three little pigs. Domestic pigs bred for their small size, they are mini Juliana pigs and will only grow up to about 50 lbs. Thatcher is the spotted male with the blue harness. Magnolia is the spotted female with the purple harness. Cinder is a reddish-brown male.
The pigs live in the Children’s Zoo and can be seen walking around the park with their trainers. At just about 10 weeks old, they are still learning what it’s all about. I’m lucky enough to be on Cinder’s training team.
This morning we took them for an early morning walk before it got too hot. We stopped to play on the central lawn where the pigs discovered a sprinkler.
Pigs are social by nature. They are curious, intelligent, and easy to train.
Thatcher and Magnolia will soon be showing off their skills in the Barnyard Bonanza show, and Cinder will be out and about meeting and greeting guests. Keep an eye out for them next time you’re at the Zoo!
June 28, 2012 3 Comments