Encyclopedic News: Winsol Grows Up

 

Where the Encyclopedia entry meets the news

 

AARDVARK

MAMMAL

WRITTEN BY: 

Alternative Titles: African ant bear, Orycteropus afer, ant bear, antbear

Aardvark, (Orycteropus afer), also called antbear, stocky African mammal found south of the Sahara Desert in savanna and semiarid areas. The name aardvark—Afrikaans for “earth pig”—refers to its piglike face and burrowing habits. The aardvark weighs up to 65 kg (145 pounds) and measures up to 2.2 metres (7.2 feet) long, including the heavy, 70-cm (28-inch) tail. The face is narrow with an elongated snout, very reduced eyes, and ears up to 24 cm (9.5 inches) long. The aardvark’s coat is scant and yellowish gray; the face and tail tip may be whitish. The four toes on the front foot (five on the hind feet) are equipped with strong, flattened nail-like “hooves” resembling spades.

By Carla Charter

CINNCINATI, OHIO- In December 2017, the Cincinnati Zoo had a new addition to their Aardvark family, when Winsol was born to his parents, Ali and Diggy. Winsol’s name was derived from the fact that he was born on the winter solstice.  Aardvarks mothers give birth to one aardvark cub after a seven to eight -month gestation period, although twins have been documented a few times.

Although babies of any type are adorable, Winsol is now considered an adult. “Winsol the aardvark is all grown up and ready to move away from his mom. His dad, Diggy, has taken his place in the Night Hunter’s habitat with his mom, Ali.  Winsol is being cared for behind the scenes until he moves to another Zoo as part of the Species Survival Plan. At the new zoo he will be paired with an eligible female,” according to Angela Hatke Digital Engagement and Publicity Manager. for the Cincinnati zoo and botanical Garden.

Aardvarks are nocturnal mammals who are fairly widely distributed throughout Africa, south of the Sahara Desert.  Lions are their largest natural predator. Aardvarks are in their own order and are the only genus and species in that order. It has been said that they share a common ancestor with manatees, hyrax and elephants, Hatke stated.

Aardvarks specialize in eating ants and termites. Sweeping their snout from side to side along the ground, aardvarks sniffs out insect nests. Once they locate the nest, the aardvark digs in with their shovel-shaped claws, licking up ants and termites with their long, sticky tongue. One aardvark can more than 50,000 insects a night! Other than insects there is a gourd type food source that they will also consume which has sometimes been referred to as “aardvark gourd”.

“They have rudimentary teeth that lack enamel or a real root system. The teeth are not really needed as they swallow their food whole and the digestive juices in their stomach does the work to break down their food,” Hatke continued.  Aardvarks and most other insect eating animals in human care, are fed a commercially prepared diet designed especially for them which is also fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Currently there are 32 aardvarks 13 males and 19 females in 17 zoos in the U.S. There are 8 zoos with only a single aardvark, 5 with two aardvarks, 2 with three aardvarks and 2 with 4 aardvarks.

Being mammals, aardvarks do have hair. Usually they have more hair during their first year of life as a lot of it gets worn off over time due to their burrowing nature. “Having a lot of hair would be more difficult for them to keep clean and in good condition as they cannot groom themselves easily due to their body shape,” Hatke said.

More information about Aardvarks and other animals at the Cincinnati zoo can be found at their website, www. cincinnatizoo.org