Aardwolf - Proteles cristatus

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Spotted Hayena - Crocuta crocuta | Brown Hayena - Hyaena brunnea | Aardwolf - Proteles cristatus


Afrikaans Aardwolf
Zulu Nehi  Tswana Thukwi,Mmabudu Shona Mwena
Photo: National Parks Board

5 cm


8 cm
Deposited and buried in 
covered middens
Contains sand and 
termite heads

Visible Male/Female Differences

Difficult to tell apart. Females and males are the same size.

Habitat and Distribution

Can survive in any habitat except true desert and forest, the main requirement beiong the presence of harvester termites. The aardwolf favours open grassland or scrub with rainfall of 100-600 mm per year


Almost exclusively harvester termites of which they eat about 300 000 (!) a night. They also occasionally eats other insects. Aardwolves can not prey on mammals because their teeth are too small to chew meat.


Litters of 2-4 are born in October after mating in mid winter and a gestation of 90 days. Cubs come out of the den at 3 and stay near it until 3 months old after which they forage with the parents for a month. Cubs are weaned and start to forage independently at 4 months. They share the parents' territory until they are a year old.  Mating pairs are monogamous but both sexes will mate with others. Black-backed jackals will kill unguarded cubs.

Behavior and Habits

Active when the termites are active: at night in summer and from the late afternoon onwards in winter order to feed on other species of termites which come out during the day. Termites are detected by scent and sound and are licked off the soil surface. Aardwolf shelter in burrows and sleep alone. Pairs share a territory of 1-4 sq km but they forage alone. Trespassers are dealt with by being attacked and chased by residents whith the mane erect to make itself look nearly twice as big. Territories are marked with scent-marks of anal gland secretion deposited on grass stems. Dung and urine are buried in middens. The first order of business for an aardwolf's activity is a sprint for the nearest midden and depositing up to 10% (!) of its body weight in faeces. Males help to raise cubs by guarding them from jackals while the female forages.


Quiet short-range contact calls. Makes a clucking noise under stress. Also an explosive bark or a loud, deep roar.

Dung and Field sign

Dung is very large (5 cm diameter) and consist mainly of sand mixed with termite heads. Deposited in middens which are areas of bare soil 2-3 m across containing buried dung. The dung smells distinctively like eucalyptus due to the defensive secretions of termites.


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