afer [or ik ter' uh puhs af' er]
"Aardvark" comes from South Africa's
Afrikaans language and means "earth
pig," a reference to the animal's pig-like
body and snout. It also boasts rabbitlike ears
and a kangaroo tail, although the aardvark is
related to none of these animals.
An adult aardvark is about 6
feet long, including a 2-foot tail, and stands
about 2 feet high at the shoulder. The feet have
very strong claws -- four on the front feet and
five on the hind feet.
Aardvarks are found throughout
Africa south of the Sahara. They live in
virtually every habitat, from dry savanna to rain
forest, where there is sufficient access to water
and sandy or clay soil.
Habits and Behaviors
Aardvarks are nocturnal,
solitary, and secretive. It is possible to spend
years in their natural range without ever seeing
a single aardvark.
The aardvark's powerful limbs
and sharp claws allow it to burrow into earth
with incredible speed. This it does if disturbed
away from its home burrow.
The burrow is 3 to 4 yards
long, with a sleeping chamber at the end. Each
aardvark has several burrows, some of them miles
On any given night an aardvark
may travel anywhere from one to eighteen miles in
search of food.
The aardvark's principal food
is termites. It uses its sharp claws to rip
through the wall of termite nests. At this
disturbance the termites swarm, and the aardvark
can use its slender 18-inch tongue to literally
"pig out." Tough skin on its nostrils
helps protect the aardvark from termite bites. It
can also close its nostrils to prevent termites
from getting into its nasal passages. As well as
tearing open nests, the aardvark will seek out
termites in rotten wood or while they are on the
In addition to termites, an
aardvark will also eat other soft-bodied insects
and some fruit.
The single young is born in
midsummer in its mother's burrow. It will begin
accompanying its mother on feeding trips after
about two weeks, and is able to dig its own
burrow at about six months.
genus & species Orycteropus afer
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