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Mammals of Southern Africa

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A Guide to the: Aardwolf - Proteles cristatus

The Aardwolf derives its name from the Afrikaans for 'earth-wolf', as they live in holes in the ground. The aardwolf keeps a low profile and can remain undetected in an area for a long time. They are very timid animals, and are primarily nocturnal, although they may be active during the late afternoon if termites are available at that time. They often get caught in the beam of car headlights: many aardwolf are killed accidentally by cars.

Termites are the aardwolf's main dish and it is guided to them by its sharp hearing and keen nose. Using its incisor teeth, the aardwolf laps up the termites with a large tongue which is covered with sticky saliva. Mice and ground birds are also included in its diet, and it is partial to the eggs of ground nesting birds. Due to its clumsy and slow movements it is often caught by predators. Aardwolfs generally do not drink surface water, as they get all of their water requirements from termites. They have been known, however, to drink water during cold spells when termites are not available.

The aardwolf has a similar frame to the hyaena. Its small teeth are weak and set wide apart. Above the aardwolf's anus, it secretes a musky fluid from two glands, and applies a sweet-smelling substance to objects within its home range as a form of communication with other aardwolfs. When an aardwolf gets angry, it lets out a loud roar and raises its long dorsal mane into a crest. Their young are born in burrows which are usually skillfully enlarged by the parents. Males help in rearing the young by guarding the den against jackals, which are probably their greatest natural enemy. The aardwolf has a slight resemblance to a small striped hyena, with buff-yellowish coat and vertical stripes down the body. The mane of long hairs can be raised when the animal gets excited, making it look larger and more dangerous than it really is.

More facts about Aardwolfs

  
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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