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Interesting Facts About Aardvarks

A nocturnal mammal, aardvarks are medium-sized animals that are very common in sub-Saharan Africa.
Jyoti Babel


The name 'Aardvark' traces its roots to the Afrikaans language from South Africa and it literally translates to ‘earth pig’ or ‘ground pig’. They are also popularly known by other names like anteaters, Cape anteater, antbears, and earth hogs.


Aardvarks share a close resemblance with pigs in their looks; they have ears like that of rabbits and a tail similar to a kangaroo. However, their species have no relation with any of these animals. Surprisingly, their closest related animal is an elephant.
A fully grown aardvark can be 2 meters long with its tail length taken into consideration and can weigh about 60 kgs. They primarily survive on ants and termites and are expert ground diggers. Their spade-shaped feet and large claws help them dig holes really fast, at the rate of 2 feet in a mere 15 seconds.


Aardvarks are characterised by sticky tongues, about 12 inches in length and it comes in really handy to them in slurping and swallowing ants and insects. They can eat as many as 50,000 ants in a single night and can travel about 16 km a night foraging for food.
Aardvarks sleep curled up all day, but come out of their burrows at night, for food. They usually tend to live alone. When they breed, their burrow is the shelter. However, it is not uncommon for aardvarks to leave their burrows and dig up new homes from time to time.
Aardvarks are considered a vital part of the African ecosystem. They are predated by many species for food and their abandoned burrows become homes for other animals like the African Wild Dogs.
Aardvarks are colour-blind and their vision is poor. However, they can see reasonably well at night. Their sense of smell and sound is superior owing to their long snout and ears. Apart from ants, termites and insects, they can also eat plants and an African variety of cucumber, known as aardvark cucumber, happens to be their favourite.
The female aardvarks have a gestation period of 7 months after which they give birth to a cub that can weigh around 2 kg. The cub remains in the burrows for the first two weeks of its life after which it ventures out with its mother for food.
At about six months of age, they are equipped to dig for their own meals and grow full size in a year. At 2 years of age, both male and female aardvarks are sexually mature and can mate to have their own offspring. The average life span of aardvarks is 18 years in the wild and they can live up to 23 years in captivity.
Aardvarks have tough skin which protects them from the bites of ants and insects as they eat them. They have an uncanny ability to seal their nostrils to keep dust and insects at bay.
The digging skill of aardvarks is their lifesaver. When threatened by wild animals like leopards, lions and hyenas, they can dig up a hole to hide and cover it up in 10 minutes. When needed they are known to defend themselves using their large claws.
Since they are quite widespread in the sub-Saharan African region in good numbers, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species lists aardvarks as a least threatened species.