Aardvark picture


Orycteropus afer

Identification: typically 48-54" (112-137cm.), but individuals have been measured at 70" (178cm.); tail 19-24" (48-61cm.), height at shoulder 15-16" (38-41cm.). A grotesque, thickset animal with blunt but strong, digging claws; greyish or reddish-brown in colour with very sparse bristly hairs, though the Cape aardvark is pale sandy or yellow with little hair; the head is narrow with an elongated snout; long pointed ears. Tail thick at base but tapering to a point.

Feeds upon ants and termites which it sweeps up with its extremely long viscid tongue. Strictly nocturnal and although common, seldom seen as they burrow; solitary; terrestrial. Although generally slow moving, they can run quite fast if threatened, and being powerful are difficult to stop and are not inhibited by bush and scrub.

Distribution and Habitat: Widespread in East Africa in localities where there are termite hills. Also found in South Africa and as far north as Egypt. Its diggings are often the only indication that the animal is present. Three types of burrow are thought to be dug by the aardvark:

  1. those dug for food, usually quite shallow, but deep enough for the animal to disappear completely inside
  2. temporary refuges for shelter for a day or two while on the move
  3. permanent burrows, probably created principally by the female for long term use when giving birth and nursing

These burrows, once vacated, provide useful shelter and refuge for a wide range of other species including: large and small members of the cat and dog families, porcupine, mongoose, some birds and even crocodile and python.

The diet, although predominantly ants, can include fruit and small mammals such as mice. The female normally gives birth to a single young during the cooler winter months from May to August.

This is Penelope, Aardvark-World's very own pet aardvark. Her name was suggested by Suzie Buckley and chosen from hundreds of suggestions sent in during 1998 to our "Name the Aardvark" competition. Congratulations Suzie, your name will be seen by the thousands of people who visit Aardvark-World now and in the future.
Picture of Penelope

Penelope will be making guest appearances on various pages in our website at different times, and will generally have fun, frolicking in the background of our pages, and popping up where she's least expected!

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