January 12, 2017 / 6:09 PM / 7 months ago

Oldest aardvark in captivity in the United States dies at 28

"AJ" the oldest aardvark held in captivity in the United States at the Philadelphia Zoo is shown in this undated photo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, provided January 12, 2017. Courtesy of Philadelphia Zoo Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) - The oldest aardvark held in captivity in the United States has died at 28, having outlived its species' average lifespan by a decade, the Philadelphia Zoo said.

The zoo said on Twitter on Wednesday that AJ, a male aardvark, was euthanized on Jan. 5 due to age-related heart failure.

"Aardvarks are unique and almost unlikely-seeming animals," Dr. Andy Baker, the zoo's chief operating officer, told Reuters on Thursday. "AJ was an unusual favorite among guests and staff and he will be greatly missed here at Philadelphia Zoo."

AJ was born at the Cincinnati Zoo in November 1988 and arrived at the Philadelphia zoo in 1989.

Aardvarks are found in most regions of sub-Saharan Africa and usually live into their upper teens or early twenties, according to the zoo's website.

AJ shared his exhibit with a 12-year-old female aardvark named Sunshine, who came from the Montgomery Zoo in Alabama in 2006. She currently shares their exhibit with meerkats within the Small Mammal House.

Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Dan Grebler

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