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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More African animal facts

  • Grevy's Zebra foal with mum at Whipsnade Zoo field
    Equus grevyi

    Grevy's zebra

    Grevy's zebra are most threatened species of zebra, with only 2000 remaining in the wild.

  • An African wild dog at Whipsnade Zoo looks at the camera
    Lycaon pictus

    African wild dog

    African wild dogs each have their own unique markings and they are one of the most successful predators in the world, with a ‘kill rate’ per hunt of up to 70%.

  • Two white rhinos at Whipsnade Zoo in their outdoor paddock with gemsbok in the background
    Ceratotherium simum ssp. simum

    Southern white rhino

    White rhinos are the largest rhino species weighing up to 2.3 tonnes which is heavier than a car!

  • Common hippo at Whipsnade Zoo
    Hippopotamus amphibius


    Hippos make their own 'sunscreen', which they secrete through their skin to keep it moist and protect them from the sun's rays.

  • Chimps eating at Whipsnade Zoo
    Pan troglodytes


    Chimps are more closely related to humans than gorillas, and you can watch our chimps regularly use tools at the Zoo.

  • A cheetah at Whipsnade Zoo
    Acinonyx jubatus


    Cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 100km per hour (70mph) and are the world's fastest land mammal.

  • African penguins at Whipsnade Zoo
    Spheniscus demersus

    African penguin

    These penguins are from warm climates, coming from the beaches of South Africa and Namibia.

  • Our animals