Aardvark

Physical Characteristics
This animal is quite unique in its appearance with a stout body, large ears, a widely recognised snout and a long, cylindrical tongue. This tongue is used to root out insects which may burrow deep within trees and other structures. The aardvark has a very keen sense of smell and is nocturnal. Their olfactory strength greatly helps them in finding food and smelling any predators which may be approaching. They are deceptively large creatures; some growing up to 1.3 metres in length and they can weigh in excess of 60 kilograms.
Habitat and Diet
Aardvarks are prolific in sub-Saharan Africa. The primary reason for this is the food it requires can be found amidst the steppes and savannahs of this region. The diet of this solitary creature is mainly comprised of ants and termites, hence the long tongue which is very efficient at rooting out these insects. Furthermore, the sharp claws of the aardvark allow it to peel away layers of hardened termite mounds to obtain its staple food. Besides ants and termites, the only other food consumed by this creature is what is appropriately known as the aardvark cucumber!
Behavioural Habits
Aardvarks live underground to avoid common predators such as lions and hyenas as well as to protect themselves from the scorching midday sun of sub-Saharan Africa. They tend to dig numerous burrows which are used as temporary shelters and they also have a main nest which is used for breeding. In fact, burrows have been known to reach as long as 13 metres.
The aardvark is rarely gregarious apart from during the breeding season when it will pair with a mate. Each pair produces a single cub which can fend for itself from around 16 weeks after birth. These animals can live a relatively long life; between 15 and 20 years in the wild and slightly longer if raised in captivity.
Defence
Of notable interest are the numerous ways that aardvarks can defend themselves. They are deceptively quick creatures and often will run in a zigzag pattern to lose a predator. If below ground, they have been known to collapse the length of tunnel between themselves and their attacker or turn around and use their hind legs to viciously claw in hopes of fending off an attack. They may also use their tail in a similar fashion. These tactics do not always work on larger predators such as leopards or lions, and indigenous tribes have also been known to hunt aardvarks for their meat.

 

Thanks to Tswalu Kalahari for the picture of this aardvark in winter!

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