When this adorable orphaned aardvark found a new home at an animal sanctuary, she became fast friends with the local residents. And, curiously, she started to act just like them too! Now she has her own little family, and it’s just the sweetest thing.
In November 2016 media sources reported that a poor baby aardvark had been found in Namibia, Africa. And the lonesome little thing had every reason for the long face. In fact, it’s thought that she was separated from her mommy after getting trapped while crossing a farm.
It’s also assumed that the young animal and her mother were trying to get over a pipeline on the farm. Sadly, though, it seems that only the adult made it across. And the adult either carried on without her child or she didn’t realize that the baby was stuck.
Thankfully, a kind-hearted woman discovered the trapped baby aardvark. But when the rescuer looked for an adult aardvark in the area, she found no sign of one. Moreover, the cub had likely been alone for days, and she was in a bad state. In fact, she was dehydrated and weak, and her feet were full of sores.
The rescuer made a call to the ZURI Orphanage, an animal shelter that veterinarian Erika de Jager runs locally from her home. Therefore, de Jager had experience treating and rehabilitating many different animal species. Fortunately, too, she had even taken care of an aardvark already and was excited for the chance to do so again.
“I was so happy,” de Jager told The Dodo. “Aardvarks are extremely rare to see in real life and many people have never seen one. I said, ‘When can you drop her off?’ And she said, ‘Right away.’”
So de Jager welcomed the aardvark cub to her animal orphanage. And as far as she could tell, the baby was between four and six weeks old and in dire need of some TLC. So to start, the veterinarian affectionately named her new charge Gertie, after the little girl in Steven Spielberg’s E.T.
One of the reasons aardvarks are so rarely seen is because they’re nocturnal and sleep a great deal, especially as babies. And Gertie was no different. Although at the orphanage, Gertie had more comfort than most aardvarks ever receive. In fact, staff made her feel like a queen with the help of dog beds piled with blankets.
Though without her mommy, Gertie had suffered from a lack of food. After all, young aardvark cubs rely on their mother’s milk to keep them strong. So de Jager had to come up with an alternative for Gertie.
So the veterinarian bottle-fed baby Gertie using milk usually given to kittens as a substitute. “It took me three days to get her to drink,” she recalled. “I bought every single baby bottle and teat under the sun.” Thankfully, de Jager’s persistence paid off.
After all, Gertie initially slept throughout both the day and night, but she grew stronger with her feedings. And against her nature, Gertie even started to get more active during daytime hours. Thankfully, this worked well with de Jager’s veterinary schedule.
In fact, the vet took her to the veterinary clinic during the day because Gertie needed constant monitoring. Fortunately, the little cub was no trouble. “Aardvarks are very clean animals,” de Jager said, explaining that they even tidy up after themselves.
“They dig a hole in the sand [when they need to urinate or defecate] and cover it up when they are finished,” de Jager explained. “She makes a sound like a baby goat.” With time, the little aardvark also started to get more playful.
“Last night at 12:00 a.m. she decided it was time to play,” de Jager recalled. “As I was trying to sleep, she stood up with her little feet on the bed. All I saw were these big ears.” Gertie’s playfulness even made her some new friends.
During de Jager’s veterinary visits to a nearby farm, Gertie was introduced to Krummel and Zettie – the neighbor’s Jack Russells. Curiously, both dogs came to accept Gertie as one of the pack. In fact, her connection with Krummel was instant.
“Krummel fell in love at first sight,” de Jager said. “She didn’t leave [Gertie] alone for a minute. She followed her around everywhere. Sometimes dogs have a strong motherly instinct and will look after babies. I suspect Krummel is like this.”
“[Zettie] was a bit scared of Gertie, but once she realized that Gertie was a great new friend, she was the happiest little puppy. Zettie will run and fall in front of her like puppies do,” de Jager said. Gertie also gets along well with the vet’s own dogs.
De Jager has two dogs called Spokie and Zarah. “Gertie will follow Zarah and just walk with all the dogs,” she said. “They will often lick her and she will follow them.” But De Jager still plans to release Gertie into the wild when she’s old enough to look after herself.
“She’s not even eating yet,” De Jager explained. “[But] even my staff are sad because she’s growing so fast.” However, Gertie won’t likely disappear from her life completely when she’s released. After all, the vet still gets visited by E.T., the first aardvark that she rescued.
For now, De Jager is treasuring every moment she can get with Gertie and just considers herself fortunate to have met her. “I love to watch her,” she said. “She’s so beautiful. [Aardvarks] are so rare, and I feel like a million dollars being so lucky to raise her.”