Seeming as though my recent blog series on marula trees went down well, I thought of doing another series on the nocturnal going-ons at Londolozi over the next little while. To do this nocturnal series, there was only one animal I could start with, the aardvark. Not only because it is the first word in the Oxford dictionary but also because it is and will continue to be one of the most elusive animals we have the potential of seeing at Londolozi and throughout South Africa.
Because of their elusiveness, guests often ask the question “Can we see Aardvark?” knowing that it is a long shot but worth the ask. I have been at Londolozi for just over three years and have been lucky enough to see just the briefest of glimpses of an aardvark with my guests which is more than most.
Why are they so elusive?
Aardvarks are nocturnal creatures. They sleep in burrows during the day and mostly emerge at night to search for food. This means that unless you are on a night drive, you are unlikely to see one. Aardvarks are solitary animals and therefore do not live in groups like many of the other animals at Londolozi. So the chances of seeing just one animal moving around are already slimmer at the get-go. Their coat is also the perfect colour to blend in to their surroundings, and at night if they freeze and stay exactly where they are, they can very easily resemble a termite mound from a distance.
Their rabbit-like ears give them an acute sense of hearing and will often hear us coming long before we even know they were around. When they hear danger approaching, they will often freeze and hope that the danger passes. If noticed or they feel they are close enough to a burrow they will flee at high speeds towards the burrow. They can have up to 100 burrows in a 1.5-hectare radius meaning there are many places to find shelter.
What role do they play?
Being insectivores, their diet is made up mostly of ants and termites. They are well equipped with a long nose that houses an excellent sense of smell. This is their biggest asset when trying to find insects to feed on. Once they have found their prey, often underground or in mounds, they begin to dig. They have huge claw-like nails on their forelegs that aid in digging like no other animal. They can dig to find food or in order to excavate a shelter at a speed so quickly that you would almost miss it if you blinked for too long. Digging burrows three to four meters deep in no time at all.
This incredible digging ability means that they play a vital role for many other animals around Londolozi. Once they have dug up a termite mound or abandoned a burrow it allows other animals to use them. The likes of warthog, hyena and even porcupines utilise these dug-out mounds to shelter themselves and serve as a perfect place to raise their youngsters. Wild dogs will also use these dug-out mounds once a year when they give birth to their pups which we have been incredibly lucky to see twice in the last few years.
Although incredibly elusive and highly unlikely to see on an average day on safari, the never-ending search for aardvarks will continue amongst the guiding team at Londolozi and who knows, one day you may be lucky enough to get a brief glimpse of these amazing but secretive animals.
Stay tuned for the next part of the Nocturnal series.
Filed under General Nature Ranger Safari experience Wildlife
Great idea for a series Patrick. The Aardvark certainly is one of the holy grails in animal sightings and trying to search for one after dark is not easy. I was fortunate enough to see and spend a few minutes with one in the Kalahari last month. It was drinking at a reservoir and then walked up to our vehicle, and continued to roam around the area for a few minutes before disappearing into the bushes. It was certainly the crowning glory after spending the earlier part of the evening following a pangolin, finding her after trampling through waist high grasses. Patience and luck….. a large part of any safari.
I would love to see a Aardvark on my next trip! The pups are so darn cute.
Great article, I think there are some species that a sighting is a real joy , Bat Eared Fox, Striped Hyena , Aardvark , Pangolin, Serval, Wild Cat and of course Caracal .
I look forward to the others in this series
A good idea, Patrick, to tell us something about the nocturnal animals.
If one is very lucky, one can see them occasionally. but because of the dark, it is quite tricky to get a good view of them.
I’m now experiencing an inner conflict: would I rather seen an aardvark or a pangolin? (As if I could choose… 😉).
Patrick these aardvark are quite funny looking animals with their long noses and big ears. Very elusive animal so one would be lucky to see this aardvark a night.
I’ll be one of those guests looking for an aardvark next month! Even a glimpse will suffice! Fingers crossed!
Thanks for explaining why we have never seen an Aarvark on any of our multiple visits to Londolozi!!!