In some situations you suddenly have an intuitive feeling that you have to get to the bottom of. This was also the case for a truck driver from Namibia who had a long way to go. Shortly before he wanted to get back in his truck and drive off, he checked his vehicle, the oil level, the filling level of his tank and finally also the tyres. It was there that he made a discovery that he had to look at twice to believe what he saw.
Eye to eye he stood opposite a rather unusual animal, which leaned peacefully asleep against the tyre of the truck: an aardvark. The driver of the truck quickly realized that the little African resident had to be a baby, and he desperately tried to locate the mother in the area. But the search was unsuccessful. So he decided to take the aardvark child to the company headquarters. From there, the 2-month-old animal was taken to the local veterinarian, Erika de Jager.
Erika is not only a veterinarian, but also the founder of Zuri Orphenage, an organisation for the protection and rearing of orphaned wild animals. The little aardvark baby radiated so much charm that Erika was immediately infatuated with the unusual four-legged friend: “It was simply love at first sight,” she says today. Of course, the kid needed a name, too. Already the first look at the little animal with the soft grey skin and the cute wrinkles on her face made her realize: His name is E.T.
Since aardvarks do not often end up in the wildlife sanctuary and it was Erika’s first rearing of this species, she was initially uncertain as to how she should properly care for the small E.T.. “We had to experiment a little at the beginning. So we tried it first with cat raising milk from the local markets, but he did not tolerate that well. But then we got a good tip from Onderstepoort University. He quickly gained weight with this milk,” recalls Erika.
For Erika it’s always a 24-hour job raising wild animals. She gives them as much love and attention as she would with a newborn human child. Because also these animal babies must be fed every few hours and need occupation. When E.T. had become strong enough, he finally met new animal friends. Spookie and Zarah had also been rescued by the organization.
In the beginning the two dogs didn’t really know what to do with this unusual animal. But soon they regarded E.T. as one of their pack and started to play and romp around with him. “The dogs were very interested in him and treated him like a puppy. They are used to young animals, because sometimes we also have goats or warthogs,” says Erika.
“E.T. even sleeps with his new friends in the dog bed every night. They have really built up a very close and very special relationship with each other,” continues Erika. “If I take the dogs for a walk, E.T.’s coming with me. I don’t think he even knows he’s actually an aardvark anymore. I think he thinks of himself as a dog,” says Erika with a smile.
But after 5 months full of luck, it is also clear for Erika that she cannot keep the cute E.T. any longer. As a wild animal its place is in the open nature, where it can blossom further and live with its kind comrades. “E.T.’s release into the wild took place in several stages. First we took him outside and let him play. One night he stayed outside.
Since then E.T. has been living in the wild again. Almost, at least. The little aardvark comes to his former home almost every night to play with Spookie and Zarah and pick up a few cuddles from Erika.
Fortunately, there are people like Erika who have dedicated their lives to raising wild animals and who are not afraid of this task even when their contemporaries look a little unusual. But let’s be honest: It is almost impossible not to find the little E.T. sweet. Thanks, Erika!