The aardvark is a very odd-looking mammal living in Southern and Central Africa, and it sometimes goes by the name “ant bear.” The aardvark got its name from the Dutch when they settled in southern Africa in the 1600’s. They named it “aardvark,” meaning “earth pig” in Dutch. Aardvarks have a long tail measuring up to 26 inches (66 cm). When their tail length is included, they measure 7.2 feet (2.2 m) long! That’s longer than most people are tall! Aardvarks weigh up to 180 pounds (82 kg) which is about as much as the adult human. These animals are nocturnal and sleep in burrows during the day. These burrows can be up to 42 feet (13 m) long and are dug with the aardvark’s strong feet.
Once the sun goes down, the “ant bears” will go find their food, from which they get the name “ant bear.” The aardvark will travel zig-zag for up to 19 miles (30 km) stopping frequently to sniff. They also put their snouts against the soil to detect the slight movements of their underground prey: ants and termites. When a hungry aardvark finds a large ant or termite mound, it uses its powerful, spade-like front feet to dig away at the outer wall of the mound. Once this is done, the aardvark will stick its long, sticky tongue into the mound. Because it is sticky, any attacking insects will be stuck to its tongue which later retreats into the aardvark’s mouth to enjoy its meal. Aardvarks travel until their stomachs are full of up to 50,000 tiny insects. If any of the predator’s potential prey happens to get on to the aardvark’s skin, its thick skin protects it from any of the insect’s bites or stings.
During the day, if the aardvark is attacked in its burrow, it was created with multiple means of defense and protection. If the enemy enters through the burrow entrance, the aardvarks can dig enough to be out of sight within a few minutes. If the predator tries to dig out the aardvark, it will block the tunnel behind it with dirt. Its large ears help it to not be surprised by predators. If the aardvark is attacked in the open by any of its numerous predators (including pythons, leopards, hyenas, or lions) the attacked aardvark will fight with its sharp claws.
Male and female aardvarks are only together during the breeding period which takes place during the rainy season. After a 7 seven month pregnancy, the females give birth to one, 4 pound (2 kg) baby. For the first two weeks, the young stay in the burrow, and then they follow their mother. Once they reach the age of 14 weeks they start eating insects, and at 6 months they can dig their own burrows. At one year of age, they are totally independent, but the females still stay with their mother for a while. At age 2 years, they start mating, for their up to 20 more years of life.
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- Aardvark: Wikipedia user-MontageMan
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