Aardwolf [Proteles cristata]
The name aardwolf is an Afrikaans word and translates to ‘Earth Wolf’ in English and gets its name from its dog-like appearance. Unlike the name, and aardwolf doesn’t eat mat but instead digs for termites and other insects.
The aardwolf is a small animal, standing about 40 – 50 cm from the shoulder and is between 65 and 80cm long from nose to tail and the tail being about 40 – 50cm long. It has a brownish-yellow coat with many black stripes with a bushy black-tipped tail. The aardwolf has coarse darker hair on its back that raises when it gets threatened. The aardwolf resembles a small hyena-like animal and weighs about 10kg.
The aardwolf is unlike the other members of the hyena family in the fact that it does not eat meat, it a termite eater. It is so well adapted at eating and catching termites that all teeth but the canines have devolved to pegs, making it impossible to eat meat. The only use for the canines is defending itself against other aardwolves. The main diet of an aardwolf consists of two main species of termites, one of which goes dormant during the winter months.
Since the aardwolf’s main diet consists of these two species of termites, it is forced to live close to the two species where there is an excess amount. The aardwolf can eat an astonishing 200 000 to 300 000 termites in one night. How the aardwolf catches this number of termites is, it uses its acute hearing do detect the termites under ground then uses its sticky broad tongue to lick the termites up. The aardwolf is also known for hunting small prey such as, mice, birds, carrion and eggs.
The aardwolf is a very solitary animal so the social behavior is unknown. There is no mating season for aardwolves and their gestation period lasts for about 90 – 100 days where 2 cubs are born. It is unknown when the cubs can eat solid food but the parents do feed the cubs regurgitated termites during weaning.
Aardwolves are solitary, nocturnal foragers that only come together during mating and to raise young. Aardwolves are very rarely seen together in small groups and never hunt in a pack because of the exclusivity of their diet, it would be much better to hunt on their own. Aardwolves usually stay in old hare burrows but also live in abandoned warthog and aardvark burrows. When the aardwolf cannot find a burrow to claim, it digs its own. Though Aardwolves are rare, people have spotted them while on a Kruger tour.
Aardwolves can be found all around Southern and Eastern Africa but not along the coast. The aardwolf can tolerate a lot of different habitat environments like open plans, grasslands, Savannahs and semi-arid areas. There are two separate colonies in Africa, one that is found centrally in South Africa and the other that stretches from Tanzania to all the way to Egypt. Some areas where you can find Aardwolves are in the Northern Cape, Botswana and the Karoo. Though not in the area, there have been sightings of Aardwolves in the Kruger park during Kruger Park Private Safaris.
2 – 4 cubs, born from October to May after ±2 Months of gestation.
Both male and female average at about 10,5 kgs
Both male and female average at 90 cm
The Aardwolf has broad and strong claws that are 20mm over the curve. There are 5 toes on the front feet, with the first toe found higher up on the foot that makes the spoor have 4 claws an 4 claws are found on the hind feet.