ROYAL OAK — A female aardvark was born at the Detroit Zoo February 11, the third offspring for 10-year-old Rachaael and 11-year-old Mchimbaji. Named Kaatie, the calf weighed less than 4 pounds at birth and has since more than quadrupled in size. Mature aardvarks can weigh from 90 to 145 pounds and grow 5 to 6 feet in length.
“Kaatie is healthy and adorable, and seems to be enjoying her time with mom, nestling in close and nursing throughout the day,” said Elizabeth Arbaugh, curator of mammals.
Animal care staff have been monitoring Rachaael and Kaatie closely in the 30 days since the calf was born. Aardvarks are small and fragile at birth, and the mothers are sometimes clumsy and can accidentally injure their little ones. “We are ready to intervene should mom decide to roll over or get up for a snack,” Arbaugh said.
The aardvarks stay indoors during the cold-weather months but can be seen outdoors in their African Grasslands habitat across from the giraffes come spring.
The aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is an African mammal whose name derives from the Afrikaans word “earth pig.” The animal’s unusual appearance plays a role in its success as a forager. Its large ears point forward to enable it to listen for the sound of insects during nocturnal feeding forays. The snout is long and filled with hair that acts as a filter, letting scents in and keeping dirt out. Strong limbs and spoon-shaped claws can tear though the sturdiest of termite mounds and the most hard-packed earth, allowing the aardvark to trap insects with its sticky tongue, which can be up to 12 inches long.