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

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Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Tongues can be up to 30 centimeters long
  • Give birth to 1 newborn every year
  • Can dig nearly 1 meter in 15 seconds

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Orycteropus afer


39 to 82 kilograms (88 to 181 pounds)


1 to 1.5 meters in length (3 to 5 feet) .6 meters at the shoulder (24 inches)

Life span

18 to 23 years in the wild


All savanna types, rainforests, woodlands, and thickets


Insectivorous, Myrmecophagous


Average 7 months


Humans, lions, leopards, hyenas, pythons


Where do aardvarks live?

They are quite versatile in their housing choices and can be found in a broad range of regions, from dry savannas to rainforests. Where there are sufficient termites for food, and soft ground for burrowing, like sandy or clay soil, you will find aardvarks. Despite being speedy, powerful diggers, they will abandon areas where the soil is too hard and instead will favor areas where the digging is easier.

Physical Characteristics

What are aardvarks?

They belong to the same group of mammals as the African elephant and have no relation to anteaters despite their similar appearance. They have a short neck connected to a strong, large, almost hairless body with an arched back. Their legs are not proportional to each other; the hind legs are longer than the front ones. They have an elongated head, with a long, protruding, narrow snout and nostrils that can be sealed. Their ears are long and tubular and are normally held upright but can be folded and closed. Their tapered, cone-shaped tail is short and muscular, and they have thick claws on the forefeet that are well adapted for digging.

Behavior & Diet

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

They are mostly solitary mammals and only come together for mating. Even though they are nocturnal, they sometimes come out during the day to sun themselves. Since their eyesight is limited the aardvark is always cautious when leaving their burrow to forage for termites. When leaving their burrow, they will stand at the entrance, motionless, for several minutes and continue forward with numerous powerful leaps until there are no sounds or threats. They will then move at a slow trot looking for food. When aardvarks sleep, they block out the entrance to their burrow, leaving only a very small opening at the top, and curl into a tight ball. They frequently dig new burrows, which many other animals use the past burrows as shelters. Females tend to stay in the same area whereas males wander more.

Aardvarks are picky eaters.

This species is specialized for eating termites. They move from one termite mound to another, dismantling the hills with their powerful claws. Insects are trapped by their long protractile tongue (as long as 30 centimeters), which is covered with thick, sticky saliva. Their impeccable sense of smell allows them to catch termites outside of the mounds. Sometimes they will press their 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 this animal for its meat and sometimes use its 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 grow, logging, agriculture, roads, and settlements destroy their habitats.


Our solutions to ensuring the aardvarks' continued existence:

  • Work with communities.

    AWF engages communities living near aardvark 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 of the lack of any medicinal or magical properties of this species.

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