Swahili Name:
Scientific Name:
Orycteropus afer
24 inches at the
88 to 143 pounds
23 years in captivity
Dry savanna to rain
7 months
leopards, pythons,
The name aardvark comes from a word meaning "earth pig."  Although the aardvark, endemic to
Africa, shares some similarities with the South American anteater, the two are not related.  The
last survivor of a group of primitive ungulates, the aardvark could more accurately be called a
near-ungulate that has developed powerful claws.
The aardvark has a short neck connected to a massive, dull brownish-gray, almost hairless body
that has a strongly arched back,  The legs are short, the hind legs longer than the front ones.  
The head is elongated and ends in a tubular narrow snout, with nostrils that can be closed.  The
long, tubular ears are normally held upright but can be folded and closed.  The short but
muscular tail is cone-shaped to a point.  The thick claws on the forefeet are used as digging tools
Aardvarks are found in all regions, from dry savanna to rain forest, where there are sufficient
termites for food, access to water and sandy clay soil.  If the soil is too hard, aardvark being
speedy, powerful diggers. Will move to areas where the digging is easier.
Aardvarks are nocturnal, usually waiting until dark before they emerge from their burrows
although after a cold night,  they may occasionally sun themselves.  They leave a distinctive
Track dragging their tails. Their travels average one to three miles but can range up to  miles a
night.  Aardvarks are seldom seen, but their presence in an area serves many other animals.  
Bats ,ground squirrels, hares, cats,civets,hyenas, jackals, porcupines, warthogs, monitor lizards,
owls and other birds use abandoned aardvark holes as shelter.  The burrows vary  from
chambers with one, to a complicate maze of galleries with 20 or more entrances.  Aardvarks keep
their burrows clean they deposit their dung in a hole away from the entrance carefully covering it
with earth.

AS it is nocturnal and has poor eyesight,the aardvark cautious upon leaving its burrow it comes to
the entrance and stands there motionless for several minutes.  Then it suddenly leaps out in
powerful jumps.  At about 30 feet out it stops, raises up on its legs,perks up its ears and turns its
head in all directions.  If there are no sounds  it makes a few more leaps and finally moves at a
slow trot to look for food.
Aardvarks specialize in eating termites as long as 35 million years ago.  At night they go from one
termite mound to another, dismantling the hill with their powerful claws.  Insects are trapped by the
long proactive tongue, which is covered with a thick, sticky saliva.  Sometimes aardvarks will press
its snout against an opening in a mound and suck up the termites  with their keen sense of smell,
also hunt for the long columns of termite that move outside mounds at night.
Aardvarks give birth to one offspring at a time.  The pinkish, hairless newborn stays inside the
burrow for about two weeks and then begins ti follow its mother in her search for food.  The young
first eats solid food at three months of age and is suckled until four months.

At six months the young male becomes independent and goes off on its own, while the young
female stays with mother until after the next baby is born.  The young female may dig its own
burrow a few yards away from its mother but still joins her to forage for termites.
The adult aardvark's principal enemies are human (who sometimes kill it for meat), lions, hyenas
and leopards; pythons also take the young.  When in danger the aardvark takes to the nearest
hole or rapidly excavates one, pushing the dirt backwards with its feet and moving the dirt away
with its tail.  But if cornered, it defends itself by sitting up, using its tail, shoulders and for-claws, or
it will lie on its back and strike with all four feet.
  • The aardvark has fewer teeth than most mammals.  The teeth are columnar in shape have
    no roots and do not grow simultaneously.
  • Although not thought to be territorial females seem to become attached to a particular
    place.  The males wander more.  Adult aardvarks are usually solitary, coming together only
    for mating.
View many pictures of
Aardvark at bottom of

fax 314-228-2536
Mother & Baby Aardvark Zoo Picture
Eating Favorite Food Termites
Taking a Walk
On the trail of food
Aardvarks Live Here
Out at Night
Two days old