Having previously delved in to the rarity of aardvarks and the difficulty of seeing one in the flesh, I was filled with mixed emotions when I saw my first one. It had been a relatively cool, overcast but windy afternoon. As we approached a herd of impala, two males started alarming, staring into a thicket off to the side of a clearing. The rest of the herd ran away from the vehicle, stopped 60m away and alarmed at the vehicle instead. Scanning the bushes in the direction in which the two males, still in place half-heartedly alarming, we couldn’t see anything.
We decided to drive off-road and have a closer look. At first, there was absolutely nothing in the direction they were looking. But on driving further around, about 1oo metres to the left of where the impala were looking we found a male lion; the Ottawa male. We presumed that in the swirling wind the impalas could smell the lion and chose to alarm, pre-empting any danger.
The Ottawa male had a kill, although through the grass it was initially difficult to see what he was eating.
At first it looked like a warthog, then possibly a hyena, and it was only in the feeding process of repositioning it that he revealed the fact that it was actually an aardvark!
Aardvarks are pretty much strictly nocturnal in this area. Yet, midway through the afternoon drive, this kill looked relatively fresh. The blood was bright red and it didn’t smell too bad, leaving us with a lot of questions. Had he stumbled across an already dead aardvark? Had he stolen it from another predator? Or caught it himself? If so how long ago? Either way there was an aardvark.
The coolness of the day could explain the brightness of the blood and lack of smell. It was a difficult one to know for sure; we would have expected him to have eaten a bit more if he had caught it the night before. Maybe he stolen it from another predator, but there was no sign of any other predator nearby. I’m sure if I had a meal stolen by a large male lion I wouldn’t hang around too much longer afterwards either.
One thing that we were sure of is that the aardvark had clearly been killed by a predator. Its throat had obvious puncture wounds, inflicted by canines, and a stream of blood that ran down from the two punctures. These would be absent if the aardvark had been found dead and unlikely to be present if it was a hyena. They do not suffocate prey to kill it.
It is very difficult to know exactly what the sequence of events entailed, and the Ottawa male made short work of what was left of the aardvark. The following morning he was nowhere to be seen. It was such an interesting turn of events and at least I there is evidence of aardvarks being around.
Sadly however, their numbers are now reduced by one, making it even harder for me to see my first!