Area of zoo
Enclosure status
IUCN status
Least Concern
Scientific name
Orycteropus afer
Forest, savanna, and grassland

Aardvark facts

  • Aardvarks are nocturnal and solitary animals, their name is Afrikaans and means "earth pig". 
  • Aardvarks create burrows which are important to other animals in their habitat. In South Africa, 27 other species were recorded using their burrows which provide protection from the heat and predators.  These burrows can be up to 13m long, but are usually around 3 metres king. 
  • Animals that use their abandoned burrows include African wild dogs, porcupines and hyenas. This makes them ecosystem engineers which support all wildlife living alongside them, especially during wildfires. 
  • Aardvarks are more closely related to elephants than anteaters, despite their appearance. 
Aardvarks feeding at Whipsnade Zoo
An aardvark at Whipsnade Zoo

Aardvark diet

Aardvarks eat ants and termites, and can eat up to 50,000 insects in a single night. They sniff out with their sensitive noses and dig out with their powerful claws. Aardvarks have a long 30cm tongue which is extra thick, protecting them from insect bites. 

Aardvark burrowing at Whipsnade Zoo

Our aardvarks 

Our aardvarks Terry and Dobby are joined by porcupines and meerkats in a labyrinthine enclosure, which features viewing windows into the nocturnal creatures’ snug sleeping areas. Lucky visitors may even see them sniffing around their habitat in the early evening, when the creatures scamper outside to ‘start their day’.  

Aardvark threats 

Aardvarks are most at risk due to bush meat the trade and habitat loss, which is being made worse by caused by climate change. 

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