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Aardwolf and Hyenas: Hyaenidae

Aardwolf (proteles Cristatus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The aardwolf is yellowish white to reddish brown, with several black stripes along the body and legs. A dark mane running from the back of the head down to the tail can be erected to make the aardwolf seem bigger. A sloping back results from hind legs that are longer than the forelegs. The teeth are very small and widely spaced. The spatula-shaped tongue and sticky saliva are adapted for licking up termites. Sharp canine teeth are designed for fighting enemies. Both sexes are about the same size, about 20 pounds (9 kilograms) in southern Africa and up to 30 pounds (14 kilograms) in East Africa.

Geographic range: Aardwolves are found in Africa, including South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, and Somalia.

Aardwolves can eat 200,000 termites during one night of feeding. (© Terry Whittaker/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Aardwolves prefer grassland, open country, and rocky areas, where they live in burrows they have dug up or taken from aardvarks or springhares.

Diet: Aardwolves feed primarily on two varieties of termites that forage on the ground surface. They can eat about 200,000 termites a night. They also eat other insects, small birds, eggs, mice, and carrion (dead or decaying animal flesh).

Behavior and reproduction: Aardwolves are solitary, feeding at night when their favorite termites emerge. When these termites become inactive in winter, aardwolves switch to another termite species that are active in the late afternoon. When scared or threatened, aardwolves roar and growl. They scent mark territories by depositing anal secretions on grasses. Aardwolves within the same territory erect their back hair until they recognize each other. Mothers and young sniff each other's noses to establish identity. Aardwolves generally mate with just one partner, although a dominant male may mate with the partner of a subordinate male. The litter consists of two to four cubs. Males babysit the young, guarding the den against predators when the mothers feed. The young leave home by one year of age.

Aardwolves and people: Aardwolves may be hunted as a food source. They sometimes are poisoned when pesticides are sprayed to control locusts in some areas.

Conservation status: Aardwolves are not a threatened species. ∎



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Web sites:

"Spotted Hyena." Woodland Park Zoo Animal Fact Sheets. http://www.zoo.org/educate/fact_sheets/savana/hyena.htm (accessed on June 21, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsAardwolf and Hyenas: Hyaenidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Hyaenids And People, Spotted Hyena (crocuta Crocuta:): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS