Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)
French: Oryctérope du Cap
The Aardvark is a medium-sized mammal native to Africa. The name comes from the Afrikaans/Dutch for "earth pig" (aarde earth, varken pig), because early settlers from Europe thought it resembled a pig. However, the Aardvark is not closely related to pigs.
The aardvark has a short neck connected to a massive, dull brownish-gray, almost hairless body that has a strongly arched back. Its colour is usually similar to the the soil in the area in which it lives. it has stout legs, the hind legs longer than the front ones. The head is elongated and ends in a long, narrow snout, with nostrils that can be closed. The long, tubular ears are normally held upright but can be folded and closed. The kangaroo-like tail is short but muscular . The thick claws on the forefeet are used as digging tools.
Aardvarks are nocturnal, usually waiting until dark before they emerge from their burrows, although after a cold night, they may occasionally sun themselves. As it is nocturnal and has poor eyesight, the aardvark is cautious upon leaving its burrow. It comes to the entrance and stands there motionless for several minutes. Then it suddenly leaps out in powerful jumps. At about 30 feet out it stops, raises up on its legs, perks up its ears and turns its head in all directions. If there are no sounds, it makes a few more leaps and finally moves at a slow trot to look for food.
The Aardvark feeds almost exclusively on ants and termites. It forages over a considerable home range, swinging its long nose from side to side to pick up the scent of food. When a concentration of ants or termites is found, the Aardvark digs into it with its powerful front legs, keeping its long ears upright to listen for predators, and takes up an astonishing number of insects with its long, sticky tongue—as many as 50,000 in one night has been recorded. It is an exceptionally fast digger, but otherwise moves rather slowly.
The adult aardvark's principal enemies are human (who sometimes kill it for meat), lions, hyenas and leopards; pythons also take the young. When in danger the aardvark takes to the nearest hole, or rapidly excavates one, pushing the dirt backwards with its feet and moving the dirt away with its tail. But if cornered, it defends itself by sitting up, using its tail, shoulders and foreclaws- or it will lie on its back and strike with all four feet.
Aardvarks are found in all regions, from dry savanna to rain forest, where there are sufficient termites for food, access to water and sandy or clay soil.
Reproduction and social life
Aside from digging out ants and termites, the Aardvark also excavates burrows to live in: temporary sites scattered around the home range as refuges, and the main burrow which is used for breeding. Main burrows can be deep and extensive, have several entrances, and can be as much as 13 meters long. The Aardvark changes the layout of its home burrow regularly, and from time to time moves on and makes a new one. Only mothers and young share burrows.
After a gestation period of 7 months, a single cub weighing around 2 kg is born, and is able to leave the burrow to accompany its mother after only two weeks. At six months of age it is digging its own burrows, but it will often remain with the mother until the next mating season. The Aardvarks can grow older than 20 years in captivity.
Source Wikipedia, African Wildlife Foundation