Wrinkly new resident epitomizes “so ugly it’s cute”

Cincinnati, OH (January 5, 2018)— Ali, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s 13-year-old female aardvark, gave birth to a baby boy on December 21, 2017.  Since then, mom and baby have been bonding behind the scenes with a little help from the Zoo’s animal care team, who have named him Winsol because he was born on the winter solstice.

Neonate and aardvark care staff members are closely supervising mom and baby interactions during the day to ensure that Ali doesn’t accidentally roll over or step on the infant.  “Aardvarks are notoriously clumsy, and we are intervening to make sure that nothing goes wrong. Other zoos have had success with this intensive rearing approach.  Ali is comfortable around people and doesn’t seem to mind all the attention from her caregivers.  They sit with mom and baby all day and step in to reposition the calf when he’s under foot or not in the right nursing position,” said Mike Dulaney, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The care team could be dedicated aardvark babysitters for two or three months.  As soon as the care team is confident that little Winsol can hold his own, he and Ali will move to the aardvark habitat in Night Hunters.  The calf’s father, 23-year-old Diggy, is viewable there now.

Winsol is the first healthy aardvark baby to be born at the Zoo since 1994.  He weighed about three pounds at birth and has doubled that amount in two weeks. According to head neonate keeper Dawn Strasser, “He came out with personality!  He was active right away and walked about five days sooner than most aardvark babies do.  His ears also perked up days before most do.”

Can’t wait to see the wrinkly rascal?  Join us for a Facebook Live with Winsol and Ali this Monday at 10 a.m. to see the #AadorableAardvark and hear about his progress from his care team.

Aardvarks are nocturnal mammals native to central and southern Africa. They have powerful claws that they use to rip open rock-hard termite mounds to obtain food and sweep their pig-like snouts from side to side to sniff out insects and lick them up with their long, sticky tongues. They typically weigh between 88 and 145 pounds. With long, donkey-like ears they are able to listen for signs of predators, like lions and leopards, while foraging for their own food.