The name comes from earlier Afrikaans (erdvark) and means "earth pig" or "ground pig" (aarde earth/ground, vark pig), because of its burrowing habits. The aardvark is not closely related to the pig; rather, it is the sole recent representative of the obscure mammalian order Tubulidentata, in which it is usually considered to form one variable species of the genus Orycteropus, the sole surviving genus in the family Orycteropodidae. The aardvark is not closely related to the South American anteater, despite sharing some characteristics and a superficial resemblance.
The aardvark has the snout of a pig, the body of a kangaroo, the ears of a mule, and it digs underground like a mole!
Aardvarks are found in non-forested areas of central and southern Africa, preferable where there is sandy or clay soil. This solitary, nocturnal animal sleeps during the day in its burrow. At nightfall it goes out to hunt for food. It cannot run quickly and is, therefore, cautious and fearful. If it senses the slightest danger, it stops, supports itself on its strong tail, and quickly digs a shelter in which to hide. It is so strong that it can dig such a shelter in a few minutes, escaping in this way from most of its enemies. Its hearing and sense of smell are well developed, which is a good thing since it can't run very fast, etc.
Termites and ants are the aardvark's preferred food. It destroys their nests with the long, sharp claws of its forefeet and then collects the insects with its sticky tongue. It swallows them by the hundreds until it is satisfied (Are you starting to understand why it is called "earth pig"?). If it does not return to its own burrow, the aardvark will dig a new one, where it will spend the day.
Each year, in October or November, the female gives birth to a hairless baby. The young stays in the burrow for two weeks, after which it goes out with its mother. At the age of six months, it is strong enough to dig its own shelter.
In African folklore, the aardvark is much admired because of its diligent quest for food and its fearless response to soldier ants. Hausa magicians make a charm from the heart, skin, forehead, and nails of the aardvark, which they then proceed to pound together with the root of a certain tree. Also, some tribes will use their teeth to make bracelets that are regarded as good luck charms.
[Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Porc_formiguer.JPG]
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