Aardwolf, also known as “Maanhaar Jackal”, is a small mammal species from the “Hyaenidae” family. This species has two subspecies which are the only remaining members in the “Protelinae” subfamily. It belongs to the same family as various Hyena species. Aardwolf is indigenous to the East and Southern Africa.
Their appearance resembles that of their close relative Brown Hyena. But, they are much smaller in size.
Size: These mammals grow between 55 cm to 80 cm in length they reach a height of 40 cm to 50 cm.
Weight: The weight of an adult animal of this species ranges from 9 kg to 14 kg.
Color: Aardwolves have tawny-brown to yellowish fur-covered bodies with vertical black stripes on the back. The upper parts of their legs are brownish and marked with dark bands while the lower parts are black in color.
Legs: Their front legs are slightly longer than the hind legs.
Mane: Distinct long manes run down the middle of their backs and necks.
Picture 1 – Aardwolf
Muzzles: They have slender muzzles.
Ears: Their ears are long and pointed.
Tails: The bushy tails of these animals are 20 cm to 30 cm long with a black tip.
The Proteles cristatus cristatus subspecies is found in Southern Africa while the distribution range of Proteles cristatus septentrionalis includes several parts of East Africa.
Range and Habitat
They inhabit open grasslands and scrublands with small trees and shrubs. The size of their home range varies depending on the amount of food available. Their habitat range may extend in a 1 km2 to 2 km2 area with high availability of foods.
Despite belonging to the family of Hyena, this species is insectivorous. Their diet mainly consists of Termites. But they also feed on various other soft-bodied insects such as maggots and grubs as well as their eggs and larvae. Occasionally, they hunt small birds and mammals.
The Aardwolves have a very interesting behavioral pattern:
They spend the daytime sleeping in their underground burrows.
Aardwolves generally use abandoned burrows of other mammals such as porcupines, aardvarks and springhares despite being able to build their own burrows.
Unlike their close relatives, the Hyenas, Aardwolves never scavenge or kill large animals.
This solitary mammal species is known to forage alone.
These animals are monogamous which means Aardwolf pairs maintain lifelong bonds.
The males are very territorial and use a musky fluid, secreted by their anal glands, to mark their territory. But they are also known to live in shared territories.
They raise their mane and make loud growling sounds when threatened.
Picture 2 – Aardwolf Image
Various mammal species including Lions, Spotted Hyenas, Leopards and Wild Dogs are known to prey on them. Pythons are also known to be their predators.
The adaptive features of these animals help them to survive in their wild habitat:
Aardwolves do not have strong jaws and teeth. Their molars are like small pegs to assist them in feeding termites and other insects.
They often scare away other animals by raising their long manes which makes them look much larger than they actually are. This often helps them to avoid being preyed on as many predatory animals run away from the Aardwolves, mistaking them for some large and aggressive species.
The long, sticky tongues and the slender muzzles of these mammals are some useful adaptive feature to help them catch their prey.
Their tawny-brown coloration provides an excellent camouflage, making it difficult for predators to spot them.
Their mating season may vary depending on the distribution range. But generally, mating takes place during autumn or spring.
Both the males and females attain sexual maturity at 2 years of age. Unpaired male Aardwolves search for suitable mates in their own territories as well as other territories during the mating season. Dominant males often mate with the females from neighboring territories that are less powerful. This often leads to conflict and fight between the males with different territories. The gestation period for Aardwolves lasts from 90 to 110 days. The females give birth to 1 to 5 (most often 2 to 3) cubs during rainy seasons. This species usually does not reproduce during scarcity of food.
The Aardwolf cubs remain in the den with their mothers for one to two months after they are born. The eyes of the cubs are open at birth. These cubs begin foraging for food when they are 3 months old and become independent at 4 months of age. In most cases, they continue staying with their mothers until the next reproductive season.
Picture 3 – Aardwolf Skull
Their average lifespan ranges between 8 years and 10 years in the wild while they are known to live up to 15 years in captivity.
This species is listed in the “Least Concern” category by the IUCN as there are no immediate threats to their existence.
Find out some fascinating facts about these amazing animals:
The meaning of their name is “earth wolf” in the Dutch and Afrikaans languages.
A single Aardwolf can consume around 200,000 termites every night.
While feeding, they never consume the whole termite colony and also take special care to keep the mound intact. This leads the Termites to rebuild their colonies in the same mound and keep supplying the Aardwolves with food.
They often memorize the exact location of a Termite mound and return there to feed so that they do not have to look for a new source of Termites every day.
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