Learn More About Aardvarks

The name aardvark literally means “earth pig.”

When you take a closer look at it, you quickly see the resemblance. With its kangaroo-like tail and rabbit-shaped ears, many people assume it’s related to these animals, but it is not.

What You Should Know

The aardvark lives throughout Africa. You will typically find it south of the Sahara. Because the aardvark is nocturnal, they spend the hot afternoon in cooler underground burrows. Once the sun goes down, aardvarks use their sharp claws to find some of their favorite insect, the termite.

The aardvark forages in the forest and grasslands. They are known for traveling many miles during the night to find termite mounds. When the animal gets its tongue into the pile, it closes its nostrils to keep insects and dust from getting inside.

Aardvarks are solitary mammals and typically only come together when it’s time for mating. It’s common to see aardvarks stand at the burrow before leaving for a few minutes. That’s because they have limited eyesight and remain cautious against threats. They also block the burrow entrance when sleeping to protect themselves further.

What Sound Do They Make?

The aardvark is a quiet animal, but you might hear some soft grunting sounds while foraging. As they make the entrance for a tunnel, the grunts might be louder. The only time they make loud, bleating noises is when there’s a threat.

You can listen to the aardvark’s soft sounds while looking at a picture.

Group Characteristics

The aardvark doesn’t do a lot of traveling, except to look for food. It remains where it can burrow and hide.

The female aardvark remains pregnant for about seven months. Then, she gives birth to one baby at a time. This baby is referred to as a cub or calf. This small aardvark weighs a little more than four pounds when born.

The cubs grow fast. Once they are three months old, they get weaned. Then, at six months old, they leave their mom.

How Many are There?

Aardvarks were originally reported as having declining numbers, but that might just be because they don’t get seen often. Recent reports suggest that the numbers remain stable. The IUCN lists the species as least concern.

The biggest threat to the aardvark is humans. African tribes regularly hunt it for its meat and utilize parts of the body as charms. Some tribes believe that the aardvark’s teeth prevent illness. As far as natural predators, the leopard, hyena and lion often hunt aardvarks. Another problem facing this species is habitat loss. The more humans log, farm, build roads or create settlements, the more habitats are destroyed.

Watch a Video

In our first video from BBC Earth, we see an aardvark peacefully sleeping.

In the next aardvark video, we learn more about the differences between this animal and the anteater.

Pop Culture

The first time we remember seeing an aardvark in pop culture was with the 17 short cartoon series The Ant and the Aardvark produced from 1969 to 1971. More recently, an aardvark is the lead character in the PBS series Arthur.

The aardvark is a popular animal in zoos because it doesn’t mind captivity. The first aardvark in a zoo is recorded as living at the London Zoo back in 1869.

Interesting Facts

When most people think about the aardvark, they assume it’s the same size as an anteater, but it’s actually larger. They common aardvark weighs 130 to 180 pounds, which means they weigh as much as a full-grown human. It also has stubby legs, beady eyes and an arched back. The aardvark has four toes on the front feet but five on their back feet.