The Aardvark is a nocturnal animal, found all over Africa in dry and wet climates. These animals feed on ants and termites. They have a long, sticky tongue. They have poor eyesight and large powerful claws on their feet for digging.
The aardvark looks a bit like a pig. Its body is stout, with an arched back, and is sparsely covered with coarse hairs. Its legs are medium length. Its front feet have four toes, while the back feet have five toes. Each toe has a large, heavy nail that is flattened and works like a shovel for digging. The ears are long, and the tail is very thick at the base and gradually gets thinner.
They have a long head on a short, thick neck. The end of the snout is flat with nostrils like a pig nose. The mouth is small and tubular which helps it suck up termites that live underneath things. The aardvark has a long, thin tongue and a very good sense of smell. The color of the aardvark is a pale yellowish-gray with a thin coat and tough skin.
Aardvark (ahrd-vahrk) is also commonly known as an “antbear," "anteater," "earth pig," or "ground pig." The name comes from the earlier Afrikaans language where aarde means earth or ground, and varken means pig.
What Do They Eat?
The aardvark is a solitary creature that feeds almost exclusively on ants and termites. The only fruit it eats is the aardvark cucumber.
How Big Are Aardvarks?
- Aardvarks are about the size of a large dog such as a Golden Retriever
- Weight: 88-140 lbs
- Length: Between 3 and 4 ft
An aardvark emerges from its burrow in the late afternoon or shortly after sunset. It covers a large area looking for food. When it walks, it swings its long nose from side to side to pick up the scent of food.
When it smells ants or termites, the aardvark digs them up with its powerful front legs and keeps its long ears pointed up to listen for predators. It takes up an astonishing number of insects with its long, sticky tongue. Aardvarks dig really fast—about 2 feet in 15 seconds. Their claws help them to quickly dig through the extremely hard crust of a termite or ant mound. Other than digging, they move fairly slow.
Aside from digging out ants and termites, the aardvark also digs burrows to live in. It usually digs smaller burrows around its home range for naps, and a main burrow for breeding. Main burrows can be very deep with several entrances. The aardvark is always changing the layout of its home burrow. From time to time it moves on and makes a new one. Smaller animals like the African wild dog often take over the old burrows once an aardvark has moved out. Only mothers and their young share burrows.
Life As An Aardvark
Aardvarks pair only during the breeding season. After a gestation period of seven months, one cub weighing around 4 pounds is born. The cub is able to leave the burrow with its mother after only two weeks. They start eating termites at 14 weeks. At six months it is able to dig its own burrows. They will often stay with their mother until the next mating season. After two years, the aardvark is ready to have a baby of its own.
Aardvarks live for up to 24 years in captivity. The aardvark's main predators are lions, leopards, hunting dogs, and pythons. Some African tribes also hunt aardvarks for meat. Aardvarks can dig fast or run in zigzags to escape enemies. They will defend themselves with their claws, tail, and shoulders. Their thick skin also protects them to some extent.