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Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)

The Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is the only living species in the order Tubulindentata. They are in the family Orycteropodidae.

Aardvarks are nocturnal mammals that are native to sub-Saharan Africa although they are very versatile in their housing choices. They can be found in many regions, as long as there are sufficient termites for food, access to water and sandy or clay soil. The name comes from the language of Afrikaans and translates to "earth pig" because of it's burrowing habits. The aardvark can dig two feet in the matter of 15 seconds. The aardvark feeds on almost all ants and termites. It can live up to 24 years in captivity.

The body of an aardvark is very stout and short and is sparingly covered in course hairs. The front feet has four toes, while the rear feet have five toes. Each toe has a shovel like nail which is useful in their burrowing. On the end of their elongated head there is a long snout. The underside of the snout houses the mouth which is small and tubular which is typical of animals that feed of ants and termites. The aardvarks body is a yellow-grey color which is often stained by reddish-brown soil. The length of the aardvark is typically between 1 and 1.3 meters (3.3 and 4.3 feet) but when the tail is taken account, the aardvark can be up to 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) long. The aardvarks weight is typically between 40 and 65 kilograms (88 and 140 lbs). 

The aardvark helps humans by reducing the ant and termite population eating away farmer's crops. They play a huge economical importance by reducing crop damaging termites by up to 60%. Although very beneficial, the aardvark is also unpopular among farmers due to their burrowing tendencies. The huge holes and burrows dug can damage dam walls and seriously damage vehicles and tractors. Abandoned termite mounds opened up by aardvarks may be used as hideouts for other types of animals. Smithers (1971) recorded 17 species of mammals that home in aardvark burrows and some of those mammals even depend on only these shelters, as they cannot make them themselves. A concern amongst farmers is that these burrows are used as homes for two other species;warthog and jackal, who are unpopular among farmers. 


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