We’ve heard of the aardvark and we’ve definitely heard of wolves, but an aardwolf? Sounds like a made-up creature straight out of J.R.R Tolkein’s series or a menacing evil minion from Harry Potter. Right? Most can’t make sense of this strange-looking animal with the body of a hyena, face of a raccoon and fluffiness of a Persian cat. Its name roughly translates as “Earth Wolf” in Afrikaan and can be found in various countries throughout Southern and Eastern Africa like Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Aardwolves are actually a very important species that contribute to the delicate ecosystem and closely resemble wild dogs. Now before you feel tempted to take the cute animals home with you, here are the top things you didn’t know about aardwolves (and why you should leave them be).
Their closest relatives are hyenas
Take one look at the aardwolf and you’ll see exactly why their closest cousins are the hyenas. They look strikingly similar and both are nocturnal, meaning they hunt for their meals at night. However, during the winter, they reverse their sleeping and eating patterns by hunting during the day and dozing at night. And no, you won’t hear them screeching and laughing in the night like the hyenas.
They eat termites
Well that makes perfect sense why its name is similar to the aardvark. Unlike the hyena, aardwolves aren’t carnivores and they don’t spend their nights thirsting for blood. They live on almost nothing but termites and use their long, sticky tongue to lap them up from the mounds. The midnight marauders don’t just snack on the termites, they practically feast on them, eating up to 300,000 of the critters in an evening, making King Henry VII look like he’s on a diet. While smaller mammals are thankful that they don’t have to worry about being prey to the aardwolves, the termites would beg to differ.
Move over March of the Penguins, the aardwolves are just as romantic. They’re real life Romeo and Juliet. They are incredibly monogamous where they will stay with one mate for the rest of their lives. Humans who commit infidelity could take some notes from the incredible loyalty from these adorable animals.
Aardwolves are lazy home builders and hate to risk sullying their precious fur. Instead of digging up burrows to take up residence, they will seek out abandoned holes and make themselves right at home. Sometimes it’s reported that the aardwolf will have up to ten burrows at a time (golly that’s way more homes than Oprah!). And hey, does the fact that they refuse to dig make them lazy or actually smart?
Luckily, they aren’t endangered
We can breathe with a sigh of relief when we learn that they aren’t listed on the endangered species list. Despite their gorgeous fur, they remain hidden under the radar due to their shy nature and nocturnal lifestyle. Not to mention, they remain overlooked by their cousin hyenas and wild dogs. It’s rare to spot aardwolves in the daytime so unfortunately, don’t expect to find them on your safari (unless it’s an evening one, you might get lucky).
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