Aardwolf babies were born in Dvůr. Only a handful of zoos in the world have succeeded in breeding them, with none in the Czech Republic so far

According to current observations, the three aardwolf cubs are healthy, strong, and exceptionally agile compared to other predator species. First cub left the birthing den for the first time at four days old. The litter remains in a calm environment with their mother. The fragile and extraordinary upbringing is just beginning, but if successful, it will be one of the most significant achievements in history.

"The birth of offspring from an animal that is extremely challenging to breed is a triumph for all the experts working in the safari park. Aardwolves have only reproduced in a handful of global gardens, and the current situation highlights the enormous professionalism of our keepers, zoologists, veterinarians, and nutrition specialists," notes Přemysl Rabas, the director of Safari Park Dvůr Králové. "Acquiring aardwolves from the specialized breeding center in South Africa was very challenging. Our zoologist spent several weeks there, gathering all the necessary information. The possibility of establishing a conservation population in European zoos was discussed in South Africa, including by Přemysl Rabas himself. 'I had the opportunity to participate in the preventive examination of the relatively newborn cubs, which we desired to obtain for the safari park. I personally vouched for the quality of the facilities we have for these extraordinary animals," he adds.

"If the successful rearing of the female goes well, it will be one of the greatest successes in the history of not only the safari park," he points out. However, the female has only given birth for the first time, and success is far from guaranteed.

The cubs, most likely three, were born on Palm Sunday. "We anticipated and ensured absolute quiet in the den and its surroundings during birth. Currently, only a very narrow circle of people has access there. The female is still very cautious around even those people. However, she takes good care of the cubs and only rarely leaves them," describes zoologist Gabriela Linhart. "Compared to cubs of other predators, these aardwolf cubs are large, strong, and well-developed. To our surprise, one of them left the den on the fourth day after birth. But the mother soon moved it back inside," adds the zoologist. Other cubs gradually emerged from the birthing den, but only for short periods.

The safari park acquired the southern aardwolves, which are now nearly two years old, in May 2023 from a specialized breeding center in South Africa, and financially supported the center. The center focuses on the breeding, research, and protection of spotted hyenas and other species. According to available information, only a handful of zoos worldwide currently house aardwolves. Successful breeding has only occurred in three of them. The safari park in the Czech Republic is the first.

In human care, spotted hyenas have always been extremely rare due to being significant dietary specialists. "They probably feed on only two species of termites. Our animal nutrition experts have developed a special tailored diet for each of our animals. They based it on information from colleagues in South Africa and their own experiences with breeding other dietary specialists and predators in the safari park," reveals Přemysl Rabas. Apart from dried and fresh insects, the aardwolfs' diet includes various granules for insectivores and predators, meat mixes, and more. The safari park currently houses all representatives of the hyena family: spotted aardwolves, striped hyenas, brown hyenas, and spotted hyenas. Such a collection is unparalleled worldwide. The acquisition of spotted hyenas follows the safari park's long-standing effort to provide the best conditions for the animals in captivity. "The aardwolves have taken over the exhibit that was previously occupied by spotted hyenas. However, the spotted hyenas recently moved to a huge enclosure in the West Cape area. The current pavilion is ideal spatially for smaller predator species, such as the aardwolvess," notes Přemysl Rabas. Humans' understanding and related animal care requirements are changing. Exhibits are expanding and becoming more natural. As part of these efforts, the Siberian tigers were relocated first, as they are from Asia and have entirely different requirements. The spotted hyenas then moved to their enclosure, subsequently improving it and gaining more than double the space in the West Cape area. This created a suitable space for breeding small and rare aardwolves. The same philosophy guided the relocation of lions to the extensive Lion Safari in 2015. There is no larger lion exhibit in the Czech Republic.

The Aardwolf is a carnivore from semi-desert and desert areas of southern, central, and eastern Africa. It is the smallest of all hyenas, significantly different in appearance and lifestyle. It is a pronounced dietary specialist, almost exclusively feeding on insects and bugs. Their teeth are adapted to this diet – they are bead-like, gradually reduced and changed in appearance through evolution. They are used for easily crushing insect bodies. They also have a long, highly mobile tongue and very sticky saliva for catching prey. They live in pairs; the territories of males and females overlap. A male may patrol the territories of several females and mate with them. When a female raises young, the male guards the den where the female cares for the young. In human care, they live to about 15 years and can weigh up to 14 kilograms, with males being larger than females. In the current ZIMS database, apart from those in the Czech Republic, there are only two other spotted hyenas listed – solitaries of different subspecies in Novosibirsk and Cincinnati. Hyenas are returning to Czech zoos after a long 65 years, with an animal briefly appearing in Prague Zoo.

The safari park acquired the aardwolves in collaboration with Zoo Zlín-Lešná in an effort to restore the insurance population of these predators in Europe.

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