It was time for the truck driver to hit the road again, but first he needed to check his tires – and thank goodness he did!
Because as he was bent over checking out one of the front tires, he spotted a tiny baby aardvark leaning up against it!
The truck driver, who was working in Namibia, looked all around the area in search of the aardvark’s mama, but he couldn’t find her anywhere.
So, he picked up the baby aardvark and drove with him back to his company’s headquarters.
Once there, Dr. Erika de Jager, a local vet and the founder of ZURI Orphanage, a small animal refuge, was contacted and the baby was handed over to her.
Erika de Jager runs the orphanage from her home.
The little aardvark, named E.T. by de Jager, had hardly any body hair, and was estimated to be about 2 months old.
But, the moment de Jager laid eyes on the baby aardvark’s tiny pink body and long, anteater-like snout, she was completely smitten! “It was love at first sight for me,” said de Jager.
However, de Jager had never raised a baby aardvark before, so doing so was a steep learning curve.
“We had to experiment a lot with different teats,” said de Jager.
“We also fed him, in the beginning, a local brand of kitten milk, but he did not do well.
It was only after we received some advice from a lecturer at Onderstepoort that we had a better idea of what to feed.
We then started to feed him the imported milk and he immediately started to pick up weight.”
“It’s a full-time job, much like a [human] baby,” added de Jager. “They need to be fed every couple of hours.
I also had to take him for walks to make sure he gets some exercise.”
Then de Jager decided to introduce little E.T. to her rescue dogs, Spokie and Zarah.
When the dogs first met the little aardvark they didn’t have a clue what kind of dog E.T. was, and they were thoroughly confused.
But E.T. was quickly accepted into the pack by the dogs. “The dogs were interested in him and just reacted as if he was another puppy,” said de Jager.
“They are used to baby animals like goats and warthogs [at the orphanage], so it was nothing unusual for them.
They just played with him like he was one of them.”
And because E.T. was just a baby, he slept a lot, and his favorite places to snooze were the dogs’ beds. “He slept with the dogs and in the dogs’ beds like a baby,” said de Jager.
And whenever E.T. was awake, all he wanted to do was follow Spokie and Zarah around everywhere they went.
“If the dogs went for a walk, E.T. was with them,” said de Jager. “I don’t think E.T. realized he was an aardvark. I think he just assumed he was a dog.”
E.T. remained in de Jager’s care for about five months and then the time came for him to be released back into the wild.
“E.T.’s release took place in stages,” said de Jager. “He was first allowed to play outside for an hour, then four hours… and then one night, he stayed out.”
E.T. may be a wild aardvark once again, however de Jager sees him all the time. “He comes home every night,” she said.
The experience that de Jager gained while taking care of E.T. came in handy, when, a couple of months later she took in another orphaned baby aardvark, called Gertie, who had also lost her mother. And, just like E.T., Gertie enjoys sleeping in the dogs’ beds and playing with her doggie friends.
Aren’t E.T. and Gertie the cutest little things you’ve ever seen?!
We’re so happy that E.T. was able to be returned to the wild and now maybe he and Gertie will become friends and have more adorable little aardvarks!
What do you think about this heartwarming animal rescue?