Aardwolf

An aardwolf stalks cautiously across an area of broken savanna.

The aardwolf resembles a small hyena, yet this minor mammal is completely insectivorous.

Name:
Aardwolf
Scientific Name:
Proteles cristata
Weight:
7 to 10 kg
Shoulder Height:
40 to 50 cm
Mating Season:
Throughout the year

Description

The aardwolf looks a lot like the striped hyena it is occasionally compared to. They are a golden blond-brown color, with distinct black stripes running vertically down their sides, starting from the back. Their front and hind legs are also covered in similar but more narrowly spaced stripes. They have rather puffy tails which blend in well with the substantial 'manes' on the back of their necks. They are much smaller than they might seem on images, with weight averages ranging from 7 to 10 kg (15 to 22 lb).

Distribution

Aardwolves have two disconnected stretches of the continent in which they can be found; the Southern and Eastern parts of Africa. Their range of distribution in Southern Africa includes the whole of South Africa and Botswana, along with most parts of Zimbabwe and Namibia and a few streaks of Mozambique bordering South Africa. They are, however, not found in the harsher reaches of the Namib Desert. Their East African range includes parts of northern Tanzania, in the Serengeti, as well as most of Kenya, Somalia and the areas of Ethiopia that border the aforementioned countries. The coastal areas of Sudan near Egypt also host the aardwolf.

Status

The aardwolf is one of those species which lives a very isolated and conservative life, and because of this it may seem like they have inferior populations or are endangered. The truth of the matter is that they, too, are so common that they can be classified as 'of least concern'. Their prey - mostly termites - are also not going to go extinct in the near future, and this offers conservationists and admirers alike some assurance as to the health of the species. Their populations seem to also have a trend of stability, despite their natural low population densities which are at their peak at around one individual per square kilometer, usually found within farmlands.

Habitat

They are found in most woodland, grassland and savanna areas with significant grass cover or cover of another kind in which to hide. The main factor any of their habitats or living environments should have is a steady and reliable source of food. Unlike the hyenas that they greatly resemble, aardwolves do not scavenge but instead find enough sustenance in small increments that consist of thousands of termites. Termites make up over 90% of their diet, in addition to other insects. Any terrain filled with large termite mounds that stand erected like little hills on the surface most likely also house an aardwolf in the near vicinity.

Social Organization

Aardwolves are most active during the darker 12 hours of nighttime, when their favorite meals also come out to forage and are then ironically consumed themselves. They go out into the night alone to do this and are presumed to be solitary because of this. Whether the species mates with the same partner consistently is unknown, but males and females who have recently reproduced young together share the same 1 to 2 square kilometer territory in which the offspring also reside. Males are known to protect the pups against dangers and mothers provide them with sustenance in the early years of their lives, which contributes to the idea that this species might be monogamous.

Social Behavior

Scent marking or scent communication is also a big trend among aardwolves as it is among most other dogs and even carnivores. They have a special routine in which they wipe or scrape their anal sac secretions on plants, tree stumps and rocks in their territory called pasting. Defecation is also used for scent marking, and their dung weighs an astonishing 8% of their total body weight on average, but these are only left in a specific latrine or toilet area usually elliptically shaped and made up of sandier soil in which they can bury their excrement among its predecessors. They do also communicate vocally through growls and howls, but most frequently in violent or threatening interactions with other animals.

Reproduction

Aardwolves in South Africa do not have a defined annual mating season, but overall the most frequent result is to give birth to their young in the wet or rainy months of the year. During breeding times, territory borders are continuously violated and females who live in the same territory as a male might even be won over by a foreign male if the resident male does not put up enough of a fight. After this whole process, cubs will be born and will live with their mothers for a mere nine months before they are completely capable of independently fending for themselves.

Anti-Predator Behavior

When under threat, aardwolves raise the hair on their back in such a way as to try and chase off or scare their attackers into leaving, similar to defense postures taken up by striped hyenas. They rarely go on the offense due to their lack of size and the weak bite they possess. They do swiftly run away if push comes to shove, and do so with their tails in the air as to distract or torment the unwelcome visitors who stumbled onto their path with the first thing on their mind to find a burrow or shelter of some kind in which to shield themselves.

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