The aardvark is a nocturnal animal that lives in the central and southern part of Africa. Aardvarks, which are sometimes called ant eaters, can grow up to 6 feet in length. Their tail alone can reach about 2 feet in length. Aardvarks are about 2 feet tall and can weigh anywhere from 90 pounds to about 150 pounds when fully matured.
An aardvark has sharp claws and a long, thin head. Their snouts are very slender and long and their body looks almost like a pig’s body. In fact, the word aardvark means “earth pig” in the Afrikkans. The aardvark uses its sharp front claws to dig dens or to find food to eat in the ground. Although an aardvark typically moves slowly, it can dig quite quickly.
It is possible for the animal to dig up to 2 feet in as little as 10 seconds. One aardvark can make a number of dens in the ground, and provide homes from itself and other animals. It is common for many animals in Africa to live in the abandoned or unused aardvark dens. Dens can be up to 43 feet in length!
Termites and ant are the aardvarks favorite food. In order to get to the termites, the animal uses its sharp claws to burrow into the termite nest. After the termites begin to swarm, the aardvark uses its long tongue to eat the termites. The animal’s tongue is about one foot long and can reach inside very tall termite holes. The animal’s thick skin helps to protect it from the bites of the swarming insects.
Aardvarks can also find termites in rotted wood as well as in other places. They will also eat other types of bugs as well as fruit called the aardvark cucumber.
Aardvarks have small families of one or two babies at a time. The pregnancy lasts for about 7 months and each baby is around five pounds at birth. The aardvarks are born during the summer months and live inside the den with their mother for about two weeks. After this time, the babies go hunting with their mother. When an aardvark is about six months of age, it will begin to dig its own dens. However, the aardvark will usually remain with its mother for about a year.
Predators of the aardvark include pythons, cheetahs and the honey badger. Sometimes, the animals are hunted for their meat by humans. If cornered in their den, aardvarks will typically build a partition and dig another way out. When chased, an aardvark will run away if possible but if cornered it will use its tail or sharp claws to fight.
Since 2002, the aardvark was thought to be endangered. However, many authorities now believe that the animal may never have actually been endangered. Rather, its nocturnal and seclusive habits may have prevented authorities from getting an actual count of the population.
Today, humans remain the animal’s biggest threat. This is because their habitat is being destroyed as land is developed. Farmers also view the animal as a pest because they can damage fences, destroy crops, or dig holes in walls.
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