- Common Name:
- Scientific Name:
- Orycteropus afer
- Average Life Span In Captivity:
- 23 years
- Head and body: 43 to 53 inches; tail: 21 to 26 inches
- 110 to 180 pounds
Aardvarks use their large front claws to dig holes at a rate of 2 feet (0.6 meters) in 15 seconds so they can quickly get to their favorite meal: termites and ants. Aardvarks have long, sticky tongues, which can be up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) long. Each night, they are able to dig up termite mounds and ant nests and slurp up and swallow tens of thousands of insects.
Aardvarks are most active at night and tend to live alone. During the day, they sleep curled up in a ball in their burrows. As night falls, aardvarks will emerge cautiously from their dens, jumping around on the lookout for predators. They are able to see at night, but otherwise have poor vision and are color-blind. They rely on their senses of sound and smell, using their long ears and snouts to get around and find insects.
Female aardvarks give birth in their burrow usually to one baby at a time. A baby aardvark stays in the burrow for two weeks and then begins to venture out to forage at night with its mom. Babies begin digging for their own meals when they reach six months and they grow to full size in about one year.
The aardvark’s fast digging skill also helps protect it from predators, such as hyenas and lions. When threatened, an aardvark can dig a hole and cover itself up in about ten minutes. Its large claws are another layer of defense.
Though aardvarks remain widespread, humans are the aardvark’s biggest threat. Some landowners don’t like the holes that aardvarks leave behind and kill the aardvarks. The use of pesticides to grow crops on land inhabited by aardvarks has also reduced the number of insects available for aardvarks to eat.