Facts & Information
The Aardvark is by far one of the oddest and most mysterious nocturnal mammal around.
Aardvark Facts Information
Common Name: Aardvark
Scientific Name: Orycteropus afer
Average lifespan in Captivity: 23 years
Size: Head and body, 43 to 53 in; tail, 21 to 26 in
Weight: 110 to 180 lbs
Current population Trend: Unknown
Aardvarks are about the size of a small pig. Typically, they weigh from 110 to 180 lbs. (50 to 82 kilograms). From head to rump, aardvarks are 43 to 53 inches (109 to 135 centimeters) long, and their tail adds another 21 to 26 inches (53 to 66 cm) to its length, according to National Geographic.
If it stuck its tongue out, an aardvark would be much longer. Their tongues can be up to 12 inches (30.5 cm) long. Their ears are also very long and can grow up to 9.5 inches (24 cm) long, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of the aardvark is their teeth. Instead of having a pulp cavity in their tooth, they have a number of thin tubes of dentine (a calcified tissue of the body), each containing pulp held together by cementum (a specialized calcified substance covering the root of a tooth). The teeth have no enamel coating and are worn away and regrow continuously. The Aardvark is born with conventional incisors and canines at the front of the jaw, which fall out and are not replaced. Adult Aardvarks only have cheek teeth at the back of the jaw.
Mysterious & Elusive
I’ve spent much of my life in the outdoors and have only had the privilege of viewing one of these bizarre animals. I have been on the lookout for another ever since so if you have ever been lucky enough to view one you fall into an elite class of individuals.
The Aardvark is a mainly a nocturnal mammal of very very shy nature. The Aardvark is very easily recognizable as it sports a long thin-ish nose and a tapered tail. The rest of the Aardvark is quite bulky and individuals can weigh up to 70kg. They have purpose built muscular front legs armed with long nailed digits designed for scratching and digging.
The nose is soft, rounded and furry with denser hair around the nostrils itself. The Aardvark has a greatly refined sense of smell and has a long sticky tongue which is used to swallow to insects with little or no chewing. Aardvark have peg like teeth and an interesting feature is that the teeth are not covered in enamel. The Aardvark has a stomach designed to break up insect much like the gizzard of a bird. The Aardvark has thick and hard facial bristles to protect its eyes during digging and large rotatable ears which are designed to hear predators but are also specifically manufactured for digging as they conveniently fold away so no dirt can get into them.
Females and males are told apart by some colour variations – the females have lighter tails sometimes almost white in colour while the males have darker colouration.
The Aardvark is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and where ants or termites are a year round abundance. Hard or stony soils are avoided and also areas of flooding or rainforests are avoided. Aardvarks are endemic to Africa
Nightly walks are also common because the soils for housing and foraging are often different – this is the best chance to actually see the Aardvark.
The aardvark can dig with great force and their dwellings can have up to 8 entrances and be as deep as 6 meters below the ground. The burrows are designed to be wide enough to accommodate just the aardvark as to keep larger predators such as Leopard, Lion and Hyena out. Aardvarks are also mainly solitary animals and only the female are accompanied by one, occasionally two young of different ages. Their claws are also designed for excavating their food.
Even the Aardvarks droppings are a rare sight as they dig a shallow scarping in which they defecate. They then use soil to cover the dung. The dung pellets are oval in shape and contain termite/ ant heads and soil particles which they cannot help but digest when they forage and dig for food.
The aardvark’s diet consists mainly of ants in the dry season when they are most active and termites in the wet season when they are more active.
Aardvarks forage in a peculiar manner and zig zag across the veld plains smelling out columns of termites moving above ground. The Aardvark will forage on the same mounds and will mark their favorite eating spots by secreting from the groin glands. Most
Being mainly nocturnal aardvarks are usually back in their burrows before dawn and will only on some occasion come out after a very cold night to catch some sun.
The discarded burrows of the aardvark are utilized by many mammals, reptiles and even a few birds. The Aardwolf benefits greatly as it doesn’t have the digging capabilities of the aardvark and will actually feed in the wake of the aardvark.
The aardvark remains mostly mysterious because of their shy nature and many more studies are yet to be conducted on them and their living behaviors.
If you are ever lucky enough to view one of these odd beauties savor the moment because it may very well be years until you see your next one.
Increase your chances of seeing this animal by hopping onto night or very early game drives. Give us a call for all your tour requirements and hopefully tick the aardvark of your list.