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Sunshine: Female, born November 12, 2004 at Montgomery Zoo in Alabama. She arrived at the Zoo on January 14, 2006.
Sunshine shares an exhibit with meerkats in the Small Mammal House. Being nocturnal, she is often asleep during the day - be sure to check her den if you don't see her.
Small Mammal House
Short and stocky, aardvarks are built for digging. Their sturdy, spade-like nails easily rip through hard earth and termite mounds. Their thick skin is sparsely covered with hair that ranges in color from brownish to yellowish gray. Their ears are large, but can fold back in order to protect them from loose dirt while the animal is burrowing. Their snout is long and flexible and they have a long tapered tongue that they use to lap up insects. Unlike anteaters and pangolins which have similar diets but no teeth, aardvarks have about 20 very unique teeth that they use to crush the insects that they consume. These teeth are so unusual that they are the origin of the aardvark’s scientific name.
Aardvarks usually live into their upper teens or early twenties.
Mainly solitary, aardvarks are nocturnal and spend their days sleeping in deep, complex burrows that they dig themselves. They often dig new burrows after a night’s foraging rather than return to an old one. Abandoned aardvark burrows are highly sought after by many other animals ranging from porcupines to hyenas who use them for shelter. When foraging for insects, aardvarks cover a strip of ground in a zig-zag pattern with their ears forward and their noses snuffling on the ground. When a nest is located, the aardvark tears into it with its powerful claws and laps up the insects with its sticky 10” long tongue. Many predators hunt aardvarks, and a startled aardvark will make a dash for the closest burrow. If none is nearby, it will dig furiously and make a new one on the spot!
After a gestation of seven months, a single baby is born deep in the mother’s burrow. At a little over 5 lbs, pink and hairless, it remains hidden securely underground for about two weeks. It will then begin to follow its mother as she forages for insects. The young aardvark will dig its own burrow at six months of age, and reaches sexual maturity at two years. There doesn’t appear to be a breeding season, although in some parts of Africa births may be tied to the seasonal rains. This may be due to the fact that the rains cause many of the burrows to flood, which concentrates the aardvarks in larger numbers than usual – which makes it much easier to find a mate.
An aardvark is around 23" at the shoulder and 55 – 80" from nose to tail.
Most aardvarks are between 110 and 150 lbs.
The aardvark is a formicivore, a specialized feeder consuming only ants and termites in the wild. The aardvark is well designed for this, they have a long snout a tiny mouth an acute sense of smell and hearing and a very long sticky tongue they use for lapping up their prey. At the Zoo the aardvark is offered a thick gruel mixture comprised of dog food, baby cereal, oil and water that the animals readily lap up. At the Zoo, aardvarks also enjoy exploring a variety of smells including fruit, which they readily tear apart, and lick, but seldom actually eat.
Aardvarks are found in most regions of sub-Saharan Africa with the exception of the rainforests.
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