Did you know?
Aardwolf cubs make clicking noises similar to those made by alarmed termites.
Aardwolves, at first glance, look a little like hyenas, except much smaller and with a striped pelt.
Not surprisingly, they are part of the same family. But unlike brown or spotted hyenas, aardwolves very seldom eat carrion.
Instead, they devote their lives to eating termites, and have peg-like teeth and weak jaws to prove it.
Like the even more secretive aardvarks and pangolins, aardwolves are nocturnal animals, and specialise in harvester termites.
These insects spend the night gathering dry grass and taking it into burrows underground.
Aardwolves generally find them by listening to the characteristic rustling and cutting sounds they make, then rush over to lick them up as fast as possible before the soldier termites arrive with their distasteful sprays.
On any given night, an aardwolf will eat up to 200 000 insects – nearly a kilogram of pure protein and very little competition for it.
Aardwolves are mostly solitary beasts and pass the day dozing in burrows. The best time to see them is just before dusk when they emerge from these burrows.
They’ve been found in almost every part of South Africa but are rare wild animals, seldom seen because of their shyness and nocturnal habits. They favour open, dry country like the arid Kalahari and Karoo, which is also where harvester termites are common.
Aardwolves, members of the Shy Five (which also includes the meerkat, the aardvark, the porcupine and the bat-eared fox), are peaceful beasts, but have a range of tricks at their disposal to make more aggressive animals leave them alone.
For a start, they can puff up every hair on their body to make them look twice as large as they really are. And although they’re slow runners, aardwolves are world-class dodgers, using their bushy tails to distract and mislead as they escape.
If all else fails, they’ll let out a barrage of ferocious growls, snarls, deep barks and even lion-like roars if cornered.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
Wherever there are harvester termites, there are aardwolves – and that counts for practically the whole country except for true desert and true forest. You may see them in game reserves, but it may be even easier to spot them while on Karoo farm stays. They favour grassland and open scrubland.
Best time to visit
Cubs are usually born in October, and parents will stay near the den for about three months after that. If the farmer knows of a den, this is probably the best time to see adults, and perhaps youngsters.
Length of stay
To maximise your chances of seeing an aardwolf, go out on night drives on consecutive nights.
What to pack
Bring warm clothing for night drives and a flash for your camera (plus batteries).
Where to stay
Nature reserves, national parks and farm stays in the dry Karoo or Kalahari will be your best bet if you want to see this ant-eating canine.