(Orycteropus afer)




Facts about this animal

The aardvarks is a rather large, somewhat pig-like animal with an elongated head, flexible tubular snout and blunt muzzle, long, pointed and erect ears, and pale, massive and arched body. It has a long extensible tongue, and a rather awkward dentition consisting of 2 premolars and 3 molars on each side of each jaw, but no incisors and no canines.

The legs are short and powerful with webbed toes, four on each of the fore and five on each of the hind feet. The toes end in long blunt claws excellent for digging burrows in the ground or holes in termite mounds. The tail is long and muscular, somewhat kangaroo-like. It has a circumference of about 40 cm at the base and is tapering towards the tip.

The hair is sparese and coarse on face, body and tail. It is longer on the limbs and there are dense mats around the nostrils. The colour of the skin ranges from pale yelowish-grey to pinkish but may change as a result from staining by soil while the animal is burrowing.

Aardvarks are nocturnal, sleeping in their burrows during the day. They are solitary, getting together only to mate. They dig their own dens, but sometimes will take over old termite mounds.

After a gestation period of about 7 months, one, rarely two young are born, which weigh about 1.7 - 1.9 kg at birth and will disperse at an age of 6-7 months.

Aardvarks feed primarily on termites during the dry season and soft-bodies ants in the rainy season.

Did you know?
That aardvarks are specialized for eating termites? They move from one termite mound to another, dismantling the hills with their powerful claws, and trapping the insects by their long protruding tongue, which is covered with a thick, sticky saliva. Sometimes the aardvark will press its snout against an opening in a mound and suck up the termites. Aardvarks, with their keen sense of smell, also hunt for the long columns of termites that move outside the mounds at night.


Name (Scientific) Orycteropus afer
Name (English) Aardvark
Name (French) Oryctérope du Cap ou Cochon de terre
Name (German) Erdferkel
Name (Spanish) Cerdo hormiguero
Local names Afrikaans: Erdvark
chiShona: Sambani
kiSwahili: Muhangs, kukukifuku
isiNdebele, isiZulu, siSwati: Isambane
seSotho, seTswana: Thakadu
xiTsonga: Xomboni
CITES Status Deleted from Appendix II in 1992
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Scotto Bear



Range Subsaharan Africa: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea Equatorial, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Habitat Savanna, shrubland
Wild population No global data available.
Zoo population 53 reported to ISIS (2008).

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 75 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by

Why do zoos keep this animal

The aardvark is not a threatened species, and the few zoos holding aardvarks keep them for primairly educational reasons, because they are the only species of the order Tubulidentata.

Ideally aardvarks are kept in a themed moonlight exhibit in conjunction with termites, because they are nocturnal, and to illustrate the food cycle.