Meet Baby Winsol, Cincinnati Zoo's "Above Average" Aardvark

Mar 21, 2018

The Cincinnati Zoo's baby aardvark is ready to meet the public. Three-month-old Winsol - so named because he was born on the Winter Solstice - is now on view in the Night Hunters habitat.

Curator of Mammals Mike Dulaney says Winsol is doing great. "His growth curve has been above average. He was walking a few days earlier than they normally do. He constantly gained weight, I don't think he had a day of any weight loss. He's just progressed so well that we brought him up to the exhibit to get him on exhibit for the folks to see."

They have a pig-like snout, donkey-like ears, a tail like a kangaroo, and a smell like nothing else. How can you beat it?

Winsol is the first healthy aardvark born at the zoo since 1994. There aren't many aardvarks in captivity in the United States, about 37 in 19 zoos - 16 males and 21 females, according to Dulaney. "So we do need males in the population, and from what I understand, the Species Survival Plan coordinator for aardvarks is already looking for a mate for Winsol."

Aardvarks reach sexual maturity at two years old. Dulaney says the animals can reach maturity a little younger when raised in captivity "because they have a better diet and just better overall care." Since his parents are both at the Cincinnati Zoo, Winsol will likely be moved elsewhere to join a lone female.

Winsol nurses from mother, Ali. Her milk is being analyzed at the Smithsonian's National Zoo Exotic Animal Milk Repository.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Winsol weighs in at more than 40 pounds. Mother, Ali, is 112 pounds. Zookeepers were able to collect milk samples from the 13-year-old female to send to the Smithsonian's National Zoo Exotic Milk Repository. There it will be analyzed for aid in creating synthetic aardvark milk.

Why are aardvarks cool? "Look at them," exclaims Dulaney with a grin. "They have a pig-like snout, donkey-like ears, a tail like a kangaroo, and a smell like nothing else. How can you beat it?"

Cincinnati Has A History Of Famous Aardvarks

Aardvarks may not seem like the most glamorous of animals, but those that have called Cincinnati home have hobnobbed with some big name celebrities, including England's Prince Charles. "We've had aardvarks on 'Johnny Carson,' 'David Letterman,' 'Larry King,' 'Regis and Kathy Lee,' (and) 'Good Morning America,'" Dulaney says.

"We had some of the first leash-trained aardvarks back in the late '70s and early '80s. Aardvarks have, since the '70s, been a special animal here at the Cincinnati Zoo."

In 1984, a female named Miss Tacoma flew to Los Angeles to be on "The Johnny Carson Show." She and eight other zoo animals were "starring" in the Cincinnati Opera's production of "Aida." Dulaney is quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer as saying, "She's the only leash-trained aardvark they knew of."

The zoo started keeping aardvarks in 1972.

Ali with the tongue slip while snuggling with son, Winsol.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU