I’ve known since I was a little kid that aardwolves existed, mainly because I think double a’s are fun. Still, I really never knew what aardwolves were. So after a bit of research I decided to blog about these lovely animals.
It turns out that aardwolves are members of the order Carnivora, and are in the family Hyaenidae (which, as you may have guessed, contains hyenas). Aardwolves live in Africa, with a northern population ranging from Tanzania to Egypt and the southern group living in southern Zambia, Angola and Mozambique. These two ranges are separated by wet wooded areas, which aardwolves avoid. Instead they prefer open savannahs, where rainfall is lower and there is little tree cover.
Aardwolves look a lot like hyenas; they are brown with black stripes and feet, have a mane that runs down their back, and have longer forelegs than back legs, which is apparently a trait of the Hyaenidae family. They are fairly small, only growing up to 14kg, with both males and females being the same size.
Like the similar sounding aardvark, aardwolves eat primarily insects, although aardwolves are very specific and only eat two species of termite. One species is only active in warm months, while the other is active in the cooler season. Termites secrete a nasty toxin that tends to deter most animals that want to eat them, but it seems aardwolves aren’t affected by it, as they eat the termites anyway. Aardwolves locate their prey by sound and smell, because I guess termites are pretty loud in their mounds and soldier termites secrete a special scent. Hunting occurs at night, and aardwolves can eat up to 300,000 termites in one night. They use their long sticky tongue to catch the crawly insects. Aardwolves are careful not to destroy the termite’s nests, so that the insects can regroup and supply a constant stream of tasty food for the hungry aardwolves. The other benefit of eating termites is that they are have a high water content, meaning aardwolves don’t usually need a separate source of water to survive. Not a bad deal, in my opinion. Of course, it involves eating termites, which sounds gross.
Aardwolves breed in June and July, with both males and females advertising their willingness to breed with lovely anal secretions. Male aardwolves defend their mates and territory vigorously, although they also will mate with other males’ females, which seems a bit hypocritical to me. Litters range from two to five pups, which stay in a secure den for the first month of life. After emerging from the den, pups forage with their parents, slowly increasing their distance from the den until about a year of age when they become independent. Male aardwolves are tasked with defending the pups, while females forage for food.
Aardwolves are pretty interesting animals, being the only member of their family that feeds on insects. They’re pretty cute too, in my opinion. I’m glad I learnt what they were. And now you know too!