Introduction: The rather unorthodox looking aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is a mammal that lives in the ground and eats ants and termites. During the 1600's, Dutch settlers in Southern Africa gave the aardvark its name, which means earth pig. Its defining characteristic is the long tubular snout, but is not like a pig in any other way. A thin coat of hair covers its thick skin and an arched back supports heavy hindquarters. The large ears look like those of a donkey and its short legs have four claws. The longer hind legs have five claws and these powerful limbs propel its muscular body and heavy tail.

Apart from catching insects, the aardvark uses its claws to dig its home and few can dig as fast! In a few minutes, it has excavated a deep hole and can escape from its enemies. The aardvark sleeps during the day, and comes out for food only after dark. It usually hunts alone.

People and lions often kill the aardvark for food. Warthogs and pythons sometimes take over aardvark burrows. It is not a fierce animal, but when attacked rolls onto its back and uses its claws to defend itself.

Distribution: Aardvark are widespread in Namibia, except for the coastal Namib Desert.

Diet: The aardvark is a prodigious excavator of ants and termite mounds and rips open the nests with its claws. Then it catches insects with its long, sticky tongue which may be about 46cm long. It has simple molar teeth which it never uses, a bit of a mystery by all accounts, as it ingests its principal diet without chewing! Instead, the stomach possesses a muscular lining, which functions similar to a gizzard, grinding the mixture of soil and termites into a refined paste.

Colouring: A pale yellowish-grey colour on sparsely-haired bodies

Breeding: Gestation periods are seven months. A single, young juvenile is born just before the rainy season, a time that coincides with heavy ant and termite activity.

Size: Males measure from 1.2 to 1.8m long, from the end of its snout to the tip of its tail and weigh about 64kg. Females are slightly lighter and smaller.

Mammals of Namibia Wildlife of Namibia

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