The Amazing Aardvark!

Learn all about the amazing aardvark! Find facts on where they live, what they eat, how they look, and more!

The word "aardvark" is unusual, because it is one of the few words that begins with two "a's." Just what is an aardvark?

Aardvarks are animals. They live in several areas of Africa. They can be found in both the dry savanna and the rain forest. As long as there are termites to eat, water to drink and soil that is soft enough to dig easily, aardvarks are happy!

Aardvarks look much like the South American anteater, but the two animals are not related.

Sometimes called "earth pigs," aardvarks are mammals, which means they don't lay eggs, but have their babies live. The mother aardvarks produce milk for their young to drink. They give birth to only one baby at a time. The baby is born without hair and stays inside the burrow for at least two weeks. It drinks the mother's milk for about four months and then begins to eat insects.

When a young male aardvark is about six months old, he goes out on his own. Young females stay with their mothers, until she has another baby. Then the young one digs a burrow close by and continues to hunt and socialize with her mother and other females. Female aardvarks tend to live in one area for their lifetime, while males wander around.

Aardvarks sleep during the day, and are active at night. This makes them a "nocturnal" animal. If the nights are cold, sometimes they will come out in the daylight to lie in the sun and get warm. They cannot see well.

They are "burrowing" animals, because they like to dig into the ground. In fact, aardvarks live underground in "burrows." Their bodies are perfect for digging. All their legs are short and they have big, sharp claws on their front feet.

The burrow may be a simple hole in the ground, or can be much fancier, with as many as 20 entrances and exits and several "rooms." Aardvarks keep their homes clean. They "go to the bathroom" in a hole they dig. Making the hole some distance from their burrow, they cover up what they do with dirt.

Sometimes, other animals use the old burrows for their homes. Birds, lizards, jackals, bats, ground squirrels, hyenas, porcupines, hares and others, use them.

Besides digging their burrows, aardvarks use their claws to dig for ants and termites, their favorite foods. When they find some insects, they rip open the insect's nest and use their long, sticky tongue to scoop the food into their mouth. Adult aardvarks' tongues are more than a foot long! Traveling from one termite mound to another, they sometimes push their snout up against the mound's opening and suck out the insects!

When full-grown, aardvarks are about six feet long. They have a small amount of stiff, brown or gray hair all over their bodies, and their heads are pig-like, except their snout is longer and heavier. Snout is another word for nose. They can close their nostrils. Aardvarks have big ears and short necks.

They have very soft teeth, without hard enamel, and are the only mammal with teeth that have no roots. The teeth grow and are replaced during the aardvark's whole lifetime! Their teeth are perfect for crushing insects.

The aardvark communicates with barking and grunting sounds. To call their babies, they often bark in a high-pitch.

Aardvarks are very gentle animals. They do not like to fight, and they never chase other animals.

Enemies of the aardvark include leopards, lions and hyenas. People sometimes hunt aardvarks for their meat.

If they are not able to hide, aardvarks will defend themselves. They have been known to use their tails and feet to fend off other animals.

To protect themselves when they are attacked, aardvarks will dig into the ground at lightning speed. They quickly cover themselves with dirt, and hide until all danger is past. Then, they slowly push their snout up through the dirt, and sniff around. When they are certain no other animal is nearby, they uncover themselves and come up for air!


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