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Aardvark calf

The aardvark calf was born Oct. 1 2014 and just recently went on display in the Namib Desert section of Desert Dome at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium hosts a Community Free Day Sunday -- giving all guests free admission -- as well as a chance to see its newest addition: an aardvark calf.

The zoo will be open from 10 am. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Exhibit buildings close at 5 p.m.

The aardvark calf, whose gender remains unknown at this time, was born Oct. 1. It is now on display in the Namib Desert section of the zoo.

The calf currently weighs just over 12 pounds. Its parents are on display daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Kingdoms of the Night. The calf is on exhibit separate from the parents because the mother has a history of not being able to raise calves. To ensure survival, the calf is being hand raised by the zoo’s animal health staff.

Aardvarks are a heavily built animal with an arched back and a long, muscular tail. Adult aardvarks range in weight from 110-150 pounds. They have a long tongue covered in sticky saliva to help them catch their diet, which consists of termites and ants. They have a long, tubular snout that allows them to reach into termite mounds.

Aardvarks are nocturnal and have a strong sense of smell and hearing to help them locate prey and avoid predators at night. They have sensory pads near the nostrils and sensory hairs near their eyes to help find insects in dark crevices.

This birth is significant because there are currently 30 aardvarks at 13 Association of Zoos and Aquarium-accredited institutions. Aardvarks are listed as a species of Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species because of its widespread distribution. However, they are a species in a precarious situation, as they are so dependent on such specific food; therefore, if a problem arises with the abundance of termites, the species as a whole could be affected drastically, the zoo said.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is located at Nebraska’s I-80 exit 454. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Regular admission prices are $13.50 for adults (12 and older), $12.50 for seniors (65 and older) and $9 for children (3-11) through March 7, 2015.

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