Antbear - Orycteropus afer

• Species List • Dung Key • Tracks Key • Silouette Key • Distribution Matrix • Biomes and Vegetation Types • References • The African Safari Series •

Hedgehog - Atelerix frontalis | Bushbabies - Lorisidae | Greater cane rat - Thryonomys swinderianus | Baboons and Monkeys - Cercopithecidae | Pangolin - Manis temminckii | Antbear - Orycteropus afer | Hares - Leporidae | Squirrels - Sciuridae | Spring Hare - Pedietes capensis | Porcupine - Hystrix africaeausralis | Jackals and Foxes - Canidae | Weasels, Polecats, Badgers and Otters - Mustelidae | Civets, Suricates, Genets and Mongooses - Viveridae | Haenas - Hayenidae | Cats - Felidae | Hyraxes - Procaviidae | Pigs - Suidae | Antelope - Bovidae | Rhinocerus - Rhinocerotidae | Zebras - Equidae | Hippopotamus - Hippopotamus amphibius | Giraffe - Giraffa cameloperdalis | Elephant - Loxodonata africana


Afrikaans Aardvark Shona Sambani Zulu Sambane Shangaan Xombana

F 8cm
H 7cm


Mainly sand
Covered with ground

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

 The snout is long and pig-like with slit-shaped nostrils. The ears are long with pointed tips. Teeth are a row of cylindrical molars and premolars.

Male/Female Differences

Females are smaller than males


Widely distributed, the main requirement being ants and termites for food.


Mostly ants and termites and sometimes other insects. More ants are eaten in the winter and more termites are eaten in summer. Also eats the fruit of aardvark pumpkins (Cucumis humifructus) which is borne underground.


Gestation is 7 months. Single young (sometimes twins) are born May-August which go with the mother as early as two weeks old. Young eats solid food at 14 weeks and  are weaned at 16 weeks. Young start digging for its own food at 6 months.  Antbears are fully grown at 12 months and reach sexual maturity at 2 years old. Maximum age is about 25 years old. Pythons take young. It is reported that the meat is tasty and it is popular as food for humans. San bushmen hunt them and the Shona people of Zimbabwe use body parts for ritual sacrifice, also traditional charms and medicines. 

Behavior and Habits

Active at night and solitary. Burrows are used for a few days at a time and possibly returned to later. Large tunnel systems with several entrances and extending 6m down into the soil are used regularly. A meter of tunnel can be dug in 5 minutes and once inside, the aardvark blocks it up with soil behind him. They mark their territories with an anal gland secretion and buries its dung. They can cover as much as 30 km in a single night's search for food.

Ant and termite nests are detected by the acute sense of smell and clawed open with the powerful front claws. The long, sticky tongue is inserted into the nest and eaten when the insects sticking to it is withdrawn into the mouth. An aardvark's sense of hearing is acute, and probably serves mainly to detect predators. Its eyesight is poor.


When foraging, Aardvarks walk slowly with their noses to the ground in seemingly aimless patterns. When disturbed, they freeze and will then move off with a fast run.

Field sign

Droppings are oval, 4 cm long, consisting mainly of sand are buried in a scrape about 10 cm deep. Large tunnels, 40-50 cm diameter. Signs of digging into and near ant and termite nests. Large holes in termite mounds. Inhabited holes are often revealed by the many small flies that hover at the burrow entrance.


Safari Media Africa/C.A. Mitchell 2000-2012

Developed by