|The aardvark is widespread in many parts of Africa.
It uses its keen senses of smell and hearing to seek out ants and termites
to eat often returning to feed at the same nest night after night. The aardvark
has a muscular body like a pigs, but its short, powerful limbs are equipped
with sharp claws. Its elongated head has large ears that fold down during
burrowing. Yellowish gray in color, its almost hairless skin is often darkly
stained from digging for food.
Habits: Not much is known about the aardvark. Active by night, aardvark journeys of close to 20 miles in one night have been tracked by radio. Solitary by nature, except for females rearing young, the aardvark lives in a 10 to 13 foot burrow with a large sleeping chamber at the end. It makes separate shallow holes for droppings, which it covers with earth. It burrows quickly and easily with its well adapted front legs and claws. The aardvark uses several burrows for temporary shelters when foraging during bad weather or escaping predators. It uses larger, more permanent sites for breeding.
These large burrows are built with many entrances and may have several chambers that are constantly enlarged and altered. They can extend to more than 40 feet in length. The aardvark can excavate a sizable hole in 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of soil. Active at night, the aardvark rests in its complex of deep burrows during the day.
Breeding: Because of its nocturnal habits, little is known about aardvark breeding in the wild. The young are born either before or during the rainy season when food is plentiful. The gestation period lasts seven months and the single young weighs four to five pounds. After two weeks, the baby takes short feeding trips with the mother and remains with her for six months. At that point the young aardvark can dig its own burrow. The young tend to stay with their mother until the start of the next breeding season.
Food and Feeding: The aardvark feeds only at night, using its good senses of smell and hearing to find ant and termite nests. It moves in a zigzag course with its nose held close to the ground and its ears pointing forward. When it locates a nest, it digs a small hole with its sharp claws into the nest wall, inserting its long, sticky tongue inside to scoop up swarming insects. The aardvark slowly enlarges the hole, alternately feeding and digging in short bursts, until its whole body can enter the nest. It does not destroy the nest; rather, it returns to the same nest to feed during the next several nights. Ants are more plentiful during the wet season and termites thrive in the dry season. When these foods are scarce, the aardvark eats soft bodied insects and fruit.
Predators: Humans, hunting dogs, pythons, and big cats such as lions and leopards hunt the aardvark. Warthogs prey on young aardvarks. The aardvark flees and rapidly digs itself into the ground to escape predators. When cornered, it will fight, lashing out with its tail and four feet.
Related species: The aardvark has no known relatives
Distribution: Open woodland, grassland, and scrub areas of Africa south of the Sahara.
Conservation: Limited by its diet, the aardvark is vulnerable to changes in land usage, especially intensive crop farming. Its main food – the termite – is increasing so the aardvark is not threatened.
Features of the Aardvark:
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