Abandoned baby aardvark pulls through with zookeepers' help
Bald baby aardvark made his debut at Busch Gardens in Tampa this weekend.
Mon, May 09, 2011 at 01:33 PM
AADORABLE AARDVARK: The unnamed baby aardvark at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. (Photo: Matt Marriott/Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)
A baby aardvark that was abandoned by his mother after birth has been cared for by zookeepers at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., for the past month. The adorable little aardvark made his public debut this weekend, the Daily Mail reports.
The cute critter, which has not yet been named, was rejected by his mother immediately after she gave birth to him on April 10, forcing park employees to step in. Like all aardvarks, he was born completely bald and has not yet started growing hair (see more photos below).
"Obviously we like to let nature take its course but we had to step in when we discovered his mother wasn't being attentive," a park spokesman told the paper. "We were scared she might accidentally step on him or even bury her cub as aardvarks have a primary instinct to dig for food and burrow for shelter."
According to Busch Gardens, the baby is one of just 35 aardvarks in North American zoos.
Baby aardvarks usually stay below ground with their mothers for a few weeks after birth. Once they leave the burrow, they are usually able to start eating for themselves at 14 weeks before being fully weaned by about 16 weeks.
Adult aardvarks, which are native to sub-Saharan Africa, can eat up to 50,000 termites an hour, the Daily Mail reports. They are the only living species of the order Tubulidentata.
A similar youngster was recently born through the first successful aardvark-breeding program in the U.K., which has produced five baby aardvarks at Colchester Zoo. Those babies were fully raised by their mothers (see video below).
(All photos courtesy Matt Marriott/Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)