Aardvark.          Orycteropodidae afer
This animal is unmistakeable when seen, with its long ears, pig-like snout, heavy build, and arched back as it walks. The body, sparsely covered with hair, is a pale yellowish colour and usually, when seen, is carrying the colour of the soil it is digging in.
Sometimes also called the ant bear, anteater, or the Afrikaans translation meaning earth pig. It is not related to the South American anteater. Believe it or not, one of its closest relatives is the elephant.
The front feet have lost the thumb and the toes have spade-like nails for digging at a speed of 2 feet in 15 seconds. The back feet have still retained the five toes.
Even though it seems the holes are always found in termite mounds, their preferred prey is actually ants. The aardvark can weigh up to 70 kg and have a total length of up to 2 metres. Not much is known about reproduction, but a single pup is born, weighing about 2 kg, in the rainy season, after a gestation period of about 7 months. The cub will accompany its mum after 2 weeks, be eating ants/termites by 3 months and digging its own burrows by 6 months.
Aardvark are found over much of sub-Saharan Africa, preferring open woodland and grassland.
The teeth are specialised, they have no pulp cavity and instead are made up of many upright tubes covered in a “cement”. As the soil from eating their prey wears them down they can constantly re-grow.
The 30 cm long sticky tongue is used to eat more than 50,000 ants a night. Whilst digging, the eyes and nose are held shut and the ears fold over and lie flat to the body to prevent soil from getting in.
They live in burrows and will have several spread around its 30 square kilometre home range. If attacked in its burrow it will seal the tunnel behind it, or roll on its back and use its claws for defence.
Aardvark are mainly nocturnal, but here at Okonjima we have been seeing them during full daylight during the winter months. A reason could be that as temperatures can fall to -6 degrees Celsius, they want to eat while it’s warmer and then get back indoors, so you can't blame them. Also ants and termites would be more active at that time as well. In Africa the aardvark is admired for its fearless quest to get food, even when being bitten by hundreds of soldier ants.
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