The name aardvark comes from
a word meaning 'earth pig'

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Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Tongues can be up to 12 in. long
  • Give birth to 1 newborn every year
  • Can dig 2 feet in 15 seconds

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Orycteropus afer


88 to 143 lb.


24 in. at the shoulder

Life span

Up to 23 years in captivity


Dry savanna




7 months


Humans, lions, leopards, hyenas, pythons


Where do aardvarks live?

Aardvarks are quite versatile in their housing choices. They can be found in all regions, from dry savannas to rain forests, where there are sufficient termites for food, access to water, and sandy or clay soil. If the soil is too hard, aardvarks, despite being speedy, powerful diggers, will move to areas where the digging is easier.

Tags: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, DRC, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa, Congo, Kazungula, Kilimanjaro, Limpopo, Regional Parc W, Samburu, Virunga, Zambezi, Cameroon, Ruaha, Etosha-Skeleton Coast, Great Fish River, Save Valley, Mau Forest Complex, Bili-Uele, Faro View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What are aardvarks?

Aardvarks are the last survivors of a group of primitive ungulates. They have a short neck connected to a massive, almost hairless body with a strongly arched back. The legs are short, the hind legs longer than the front ones. The head is elongated, with a long, narrow snout and nostrils that can be sealed. The long, tubular ears are normally held upright but can be folded and closed. The short but muscular tail is cone-shaped and tapers to a point. The thick claws on the forefeet are well-adapted for digging.

Behavior & Diet

Aardvarks are a little anti-social—and even inhospitable.

They are mostly solitary and nocturnal, but sometimes, they will come out during the day to sun themselves. When aardvarks sleep, they block the entrance to their burrow, leaving only a very small opening at the top, and curl into a tight ball.

Aardvarks are picky eaters.

Aardvarks are specialized for eating termites. They move from one termite mound to another, dismantling the hills with their powerful claws. Insects are trapped by the aardvark's long, protractile tongue (as long as 12 inches), which is covered with thick, sticky saliva. Sometimes, the aardvark will press its snout against an opening in a mound and suck up the termites.

  • Aardvark Nigel Dennis
  • Aardvark Nigel Dennis
  • Aardvark Nigel Dennis
  • Aardvark Keith and Colleen Begg

Aardvarks are hunted by humans.

Many African tribes hunt the aardvark for its meat and use various body parts as charms—the teeth are believed to prevent illnesses. Other animals like lions, hyenas, and leopards are its natural predators in the wild.

Habitat loss is also a threat to aardvarks.

As human populations rise and cities grow, logging, agriculture, roads, and settlements destroy aardvark habitats.


Our solutions to ensuring the aardvarks' continued existence:

  • Work with communities.

    AWF engages communities living near aardvarks’ habitats to create sustainable solutions for agricultural and settlement growth by providing incentives and training on best practices.

  • Educate the public.

    We work to provide awareness on the lack of any medicinal or magical properties in aardvark products.          


Will you show the aardvark your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on vital programs like providing sustainable agricultural training to communities. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure this species continues to thrive.

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