“Looks like a donkey with a piggy snout”. That was a 3 year old’s observation.
“It’s round!” – A teenager’s reaction.
“Needs to go on a diet” – mom’s remark.
Dad is too busy to say anything. His DSLR fires off a barrage of shots at the strange animal next to us. He mumbles something along the lines of ‘a higher ISO and a slower shutter speed’. Sets the camera. Another barrage of photographs. I do not envy the editing he will have to do tonight.
All this excitement is because of a very rare sighting.
The Aardvark (also known as Antbear) is mainly nocturnal and as such, only very rarely seen. It is only half a joke that we need to be out in the bush at one in the morning, after the rain, to have a chance of encountering it.
Sometimes though, one of them does not read the instruction manual, and shows itself in broad daylight. This predominantly happens when the veld is dry, and my camera’s batteries are flat...
Those big holes in the ground that warthogs usually live in, guess who digs them?
The aardvark is one of the most well-equipped diggers in the animal kingdom. The ligaments that hold the phalanges to the claws are massive. The three dominant claws on each front foot look like the fingers on a mechanical digger; as a matter of fact, that is where they got the idea for the shape of the teeth in the first place!
They are the construction workers of the bush, creating housing for creatures as varied as snakes and bugs, black ducks (yes, they breed in abandoned aardvark holes) to hyenas and warthogs.
I need to share something about its teeth, or rather, lack of them. They lack enamel, making them soft, pretty much as soft as a hard eraser. With their diet consisting of around 100 000 ants and termites in a night, chewing is not high on their list of priorities.
The ecology on an aardvark hole is fascinating, but I digress. To get the rest of this story you will have to visit us..! Your qualified and experienced Kaingo field guide will be able to show you these holes up close and tell you more about them, and the Aardvark, in an interactive fashion – as is the Kaingo way.
After a good deal of time, and yet again kicking myself for not charging the camera’s batteries, our model aardvark shuffled off into the undergrowth and out of sight. Kaingo just keeps on rolling out the surprises!