Kruger National Park

Can You Dig It? – The Aardvark

The word Aardvark comes from Afrikaans and directly translates to “earth pig”; one look at this creature and you would understand why. Upon closer inspection you will notice that the Aardvark looks like a rabbit-pig-kangaroo hybrid, am I right? However, the Aardvark is not related to any of these animals, not even Anteaters, despite sharing some features. Its closest living relative is the African Elephant and it is the only species in its order.

The Aardvark is born with a full mouth of teeth that later falls out and are never replaced, except for cheek teeth at the back of the jaw. The teeth that remain are peg-like and rootless. It is weird that they even have teeth since they don’t chew, their stomachs have a muscular pyloric area that grinds their food. Aardvarks will occasionally stand, and even take a step or two, on their hind legs and grows up to 2m meters long. The average size Aardvark can weigh up to 60kg.

When threatened, the Aardvark will attack using their claws, tail, shoulders and sometimes even flip over to lay on their backs, motionless. The motionless pose will only come to life if you come too close. In this case, they will start attacking, whilst still on their back with all fours. Surprisingly, the Aardvark is a decent swimmer and can even swim in strong currents.

The Aardvark is a beloved architect of many different species since it creates homes for many other animals like the Porcupine and Pangolin. The Aardvark can dig 2 feet in 15 seconds. This digging speed is needed when they are threatened.  They hide in a borrow that has either been pre-created or they will quickly dig a completely new one!

The Aardvark can slurp up 50,000 ants in one meal. They can seal their nostrils, to keep out dust and ants.  They are famous for eating ants, but there is one fruit that they like just as much: the strange Aardvark cucumber, or the aardvark pumpkin, a vine that grows toward the sun and then back into the ground where the fruit begins to grow at 8 inches deep. It is named after the Aardvark because it requires an Aardvark to dig it up. The Aardvark eats the fruit and then replant it by excreting the seeds. How amazing, the Aardvark has green fingers or rather a green…

 

Interesting Bonus Fact:

The Aardvark is also seen as a cartoon character in Pink Panther and Palls.

 

 

Written By: Tersha van Staden

Photograph By: Gary Parker