Letter A is for Aardvarks...Learn about Them Here
Some Facts about Aardvarks
Aardvarks are rarely seen by humans because they are nocturnal animals who sleep in burrows during the day. They are found in Africa below the more northern regions of the Sahara Desert.
Aardvarks are unusual looking animals that appear as if they have been assembled by a child playing with different animal parts. They have a tail resembling a kangaroo and ears that look similar to a rabbit. They have feet that appear like those found on ducks except for the fierce looking bear like claws. Their bodies are somewhat pig like in appearance except for an elongated face that does sport a snout like those on our equine friends. Did I mention the thin tongue that can extend out to a foot or foot and a half? A peculiar looking animal to be sure!
What do aardvarks eat?
Ants and termites are their preference and those account for the majority of their diet although they are omnivorous. During the course of one night's foraging they can eat up to 50,000 insects or more! The insects are then broken down in an aardvark's stomach.
They have a terrific sense of smell and can easily find those soft bodied insects and fill their stomachs with thousands of them at one time using their long sticky tongues to scoop them up en masse.
When disturbing a termite mound or ant nest, their thick hide helps to protect them from insect bites.
Aardvarks at Detroit Zoo
How long have aardvarks been around?
Oh...about five million years...give or take!
Many species have appeared and others have become extinct in that time frame.
In a zoo setting these animals commonly live an average of around 23 years.
How long aardvarks will survive on earth is undetermined. While not yet considered endangered, their main threat at this point seems to be the loss of natural habitat where man is encroaching as human populations keep growing.
View of teeth in an aardvark skull
What are their defenses and who preys upon aardvarks?
Large cats like lions and leopards or even hyenas or wild dogs can occasionally take down an aardvark.
With their keen hearing ability this does not often happen because those sharp claws can dig a burrow in mere seconds for a retreat.
If they have to stand their ground, their tail can be utilized like a club and flipping over on their back those threatening claws can ward off most opponents. The thick skin of an aardvark also helps to protect it.
Some humans also prey upon these animals hunting them for its meat source as well as some body parts considered to be charms warding off illnesses.
This sounds like a cute book!
Nash is in top form with this rollicking poem about an aardvark who takes a cruise to escape from soggy weather. Arrogant and vain, Aardvark wins few friends among the other animals squeezed aboard the crowded vessel--until he and his tongue save the day and the ark.
The burrows or tunnels they excavate are quite large as an average aardvark can weigh up to 150 pounds or more and stands about 2 feet at the shoulders. Those temporary shelters can be between 3 to 4 feet long but the ones that they dig for breeding purposes can be in excess of 40 feet with several entrances.
Since aardvarks are somewhat nomadic, those burrows are often utilized by other animals for a shelter after being abandoned by an aardvark...so they are home builders of sorts.
Aardvarks are occasionally called earth pigs as well as other names like African ant bear.
A female usually bears only one offspring at a time and continues to nurture it up to the time that it can take care of itself in the wild. A young aardvark can dig burrows for itself by the time is is six months of age and is adult sized by the end of a year reaching sexual maturity at or around the age of two.
Does this give you something to discuss around the office water cooler or at your dinner table tonight? :))
For further reading about Aardvarks check out these references:
- Aardvark videos, photos and facts - Orycteropus afer | ARKive
Learn more about the Aardvark - with amazing Aardvark videos, photos and facts on ARKive
- Aardvark | African Wildlife Foundation
Aardvarks are quite versatile in their housing choices. They can be found in all regions, from dry savannas to rain forests
- Aardvark | National Geographic
Meet the aardvark, an animal that appears to be wearing other mammal parts. Get the A-to-Z on these sub-Saharan sniffers.
- Aardvark - Wikipedia