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Eco Travel Guide to South Africa and Southern Africa
Mammals of Southern Africa

Large Mammals   Smaller Mammals 

The "Big 5": Lion LeopardElephant Buffalo Rhino

A Guide to the: Aardvark - Orycteropus afer

The Aardvark is strictly nocturnal and is seldom seen. These animals are piglike and have a touch of bear in their appearance: hence the various informal names: 'earth-pig' and 'ant-bear', but they are actually biologically unique. They have a fleshy, elongated muzzle, long, rabbit-like ears, a thick tail, a sticky ribbon of a tongue between 20 and 30 cm long, a sparsely haired torso and sharp claws on their webbed feet. Their diet consists of ants and termites, for which the aardvark is totally adapted. Their claws burrow into the ant hill and their ears are folded back to avoid dirt; the muzzle is inserted into the ant hill with the hairs at the end of the muzzle acting as a dust filter, then the tongue is projected into the passages of the ants' home. When foraging, aardvarks move slowly with their noses close to the ground, as their sense of smell is highly developed. They tend to move around irregularly searching for ants. The only other food eaten by the aardvark is wild melons. The aardvark is very strong and can burrow a shelter in just minutes. A single young is born inside the burrow. Many other animals use the burrows of aardvarks once they have stopped using a particular burrow.

More facts about Aardvarks

Learn more about the mammal species of Southern Africa with Wildlife Campus. This includes in-depth information about habitat, spoor, droppings, ecology...

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