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Aardvark, you ugly thing!

Posted by Out & About Africa on Wed May 31, 2023 in South Africa.

They are cute, but oh so mysterious!
Literally, an Earth Pig!
Looks like a pig telling fibs, with a cousin that may have been a donkey, but it’s not a pig at all (neither a donkey)!
This little piggy is a closer relative to an elephant or a golden mole.

Scientific name: Orycteropus afer

Earthy yes! Aardvarks use their large front claws to dig holes at a rate of 600mm in 15 seconds so they can quickly get to their favourite meal: termites and ants. Aardvarks have long, sticky tongues, which can be up to 30 centimeters long. They can weigh up to 65kg. Being nocturnal, each night  they are able to dig up termite mounds, ant nests and slurp up and swallow tens of thousands of insects.

Their night vision is very good and they use those big ears to hear, and loooong noses to sniff out their food at night. During the day though, these cute uglies are a bit useless and do not see so well – apparently they’re also colour blind.

At night it travels 10–30 km, ambling along familiar paths in a zigzag fashion, pausing frequently to sniff and press its snout against the soil. Fleshy sensory organs on the nasal septum probably detect tiny underground movements. With its strong claws the aardvark can rapidly open a cement-hard termite mound. The nostrils are squeezed shut to keep out flying dust.

A thick hide protects the aardvark from insect bites and stings. If threatened while away from a sheltering burrow, an aardvark can dig its way out of sight in five minutes. An acute sense of hearing protects it from being surprised by predators, which include pythons, lions, leopards, and hyenas. If a predator tries to dig it out of its burrow, the aardvark rapidly moves soil to block the tunnel behind itself. When attacked it slashes with its formidable front claws.

These Earth Pigs are still quite widespread but they are very difficult to spot, being nocturnal and naturally shy! Basically all over Sub-Saharan Africa in the wild.

Their biggest threat are, per usual, humans! Many farmers and rural folk don’t like the fact that they dig holes everywhere. Also, poisoning of fields and crops ruin the insect population, thus their ‘hunting grounds’ are diminishing.

The AARDVARK is a must see on your game viewing/animal spotting list!