Aardvarks look a bit like pigs, with rabbit-like ears and a kangaroo’s tail - yet they are not related to any of these animals. In fact, one of their closest living relatives is the elephant!
Amazing Facts About the Aardvark
- The name Aardvark comes from South Africa’s Afrikaans language and means ‘earth pig’ or ‘ground pig’. Aardvarks are also known as ‘antbears’, ‘anteaters’, ‘Cape anteater’ and ‘earth hogs’.
- They are nocturnal. After sunset, they leave their cool burrows and forage over many km in grasslands and forests for their favorite food, termites, swinging their long nose from side to side to pick up the termites’ scent.
- Aardvarks use their powerful feet and claws, which resemble spades, for fast digging of underground burrows and digging up large earthen termite mounds to feast on the insects within. Their tough thick skin protects them from bites, whilst their wormlike tongue can be up to 30.5 cm long and is sticky, meaning they can trap up to 50,000 termites or ants in one night!
- An unusual but helpful ability allows Aardvarks to seal their nostrils, keeping dust and insects from invading their snouts.
- An aardvark’s keen hearing warns it of predators such as lions, leopards, hunting dogs, hyenas, and pythons. If they need to escape, they can dig fast or run in zigzags. It if all else fails, they will strike with their claws, tail and shoulders, sometimes flipping onto their backs to lash out with all fours. If attacked in the tunnel, they seal the tunnel off behind or turn around and attack with their claws.
- Main burrows, which are used for breeding, can be deep and extensive, have several entrances and can be as long as 13 meters. Solitary aniamls, aardvarks change their home borrow layout regularly, and from time to time move on and make a new one. The old burrows are then inhabited by smaller animals like the African Wild Dog.
- The aardvark is admired in African folklore because of its diligent search for food and its lack of fear of soldier ants.
- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Omnivore
- Life span in the wild: 23 years
- Size: Head and body 109 to 135 cm; Tail 53 to 66 cm
- Weight: 50 to 82 kg
- Habitat: Savannas, grasslands, woodlands and bushland
- Range: Across Africa South of the Sahara
- Scientific name: Orycteropus afer