An aardvark has been born at Chester Zoo for the first time in the park’s 90-year history.
Conservationists discovered the new arrival snuggled up with its parents, Oni and Koos, after it had been born overnight on January 4.
The calf, born with large droopy ears, hairless wrinkled skin and giant claws, is currently being fed by zookeepers throughout the night as it gains strength.
Staff have named it Dobby due to its resemblance to the Harry Potter character. Its sex is yet to be determined, reports LancsLive.
Team manager Dave White said: “This is the very first aardvark to be born at the zoo and so it’s a momentous landmark for us and a real cause for celebration. We’re overjoyed.”
“Aardvark parents are notorious for being a little clumsy around their newborns. With the baby being so tiny and fragile, we’re therefore protecting it from any accidental knocks and bumps by helping mum out with supplementary feeding sessions throughout the night, just until the calf is a little stronger.
“So, in the evening, when the parents are out exploring and feeding, we carefully place the calf into a special incubator and take it home to feed with warm milk every few hours. The calf then spends the daytime bonding and snuggled up with mum Oni inside her burrow – and they’re both doing great together.”
Aardvarks are native to sub-Saharan Africa where they are threatened by habitat loss as a result of agricultural development and hunted for their meat.
The word aardvark translates to “earth pig” in Afrikaans. The nocturnal animals use their long noses and keen sense of smell to sniff out ants and termites, which they lap up with a long tongue measuring up to 25cm, covered in sticky saliva.
With only 66 aardvarks found in zoos across Europe and a mere 109 in zoos worldwide, Chester is one of just a small number of zoos caring for the species.
Mark Brayshaw, curator of mammals at the zoo, added: “Aardvarks are quite secretive creatures, which are mostly only ever active in darkness, and so some aspects of how they go about their lives remain relatively unknown. Caring for species like aardvarks in zoos enables us to learn more about them – how they live, their behaviors and their biology.
“All of this information is then shared with other leading conservation zoos and helps to better inform our efforts to preserve their numbers.
“This new calf joins a conservation breeding program that only a handful of zoos are part of globally.”
Aardvarks use their powerful claws to tear open termite mounds, as well as to dig underground burrows in which they sleep.
For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.