Proteles cristata


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Proteles cristata
Species Authority: (Sparrman, 1783)
Common Name(s):
English Aardwolf
French Protèle
Spanish Lobo De Tierra
Proteles cristatus (Sparrman, 1783) [orth. error]
Taxonomic Notes: Two subspecies are usually recognized: P. c. cristata from southern Africa, and P. c. septentrionalis from eastern and northeastern Africa. Their validity requires confirmation.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Anderson, M. & Mills, G.
Reviewer(s): Mills, G. (Hyaena Specialist Group) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)
Listed as Least Concern as the species is reasonably widespread, present in numerous protected areas, and there are no major threats believed to be resulting in a significant range-wide decline.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Aardwolf has a disjunct distribution in Africa, occurring in two discrete areas, 1,500 km apart, one in East and north-eastern Africa and one in southern Africa. Their distribution is largely determined by the distribution of Trinervitermes termites, which constitute their principle food (Anderson in press).

The northern population extends from central Tanzania to north-eastern Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia, then narrowly along the coast of Eritrea and Sudan to extreme south-eastern Egypt (in the Sudan Government Administration Area) (Hofer and Mills 1998; Anderson in press). Their presence in Djibouti is unclear (Kunzel et al. 2000). A road kill from near Mbatwa in the Udzungwa Mountains in 2002 is probably the most southerly record for the northern subspecies (De Luca and Mpunga 2005).

The southern population ranges over most of southern Africa, extending just into south-west Angola, southern Zambia (apparently south of the Kafue River), and south-west Mozambique, but is entirely absent from Malawi, southern Tanzania, and most of Zambia (Hofer and Mills 1998; Anderson in press). They are not recorded from Lesotho, but may well occur (Lynch 1994).
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Kenya; Mozambique; Namibia; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Although relatively widely distributed, the Aardwolf is not common within its range. In prime habitat (open grassland and scrub regions), densities may reach one adult/km² on farms with good populations of termites and no persecution by farmers (Anderson in press).
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Their prime habitat is open, grassy plains, being entirely absent from forests or pure desert (Anderson in press). In southern Africa the Aardwolf occupies diverse habitats, ranging from the karroid habitats of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, the grasslands and scrub of Botswana, the open savanna woodlands of Zimbabwe, and the inland gravel plains of the Namib Desert in Namibia (Skinner and Chimimba 2005). Recorded to 2,000 m asl in Ethiopia (Yalden et al. 1996). Throughout its distribution, the Aardwolf has been recorded to feed primarily on nasute harvester termites (genus Trinervitermes) and, in any particular region, mainly on one species; they are largely independent of water (except during prolonged cold spells), obtaining their moisture requirements from termites (Anderson in press). A comprehensive review of the species' ecology can be found in Koehler and Richardson (1990) and Anderson (in press).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are currently no major threats to Aardwolves. In South Africa, the Aardwolf was previously persecuted by some farmers for the mistaken belief that it was a predator of livestock, chickens and eggs (Richardson 1984; Anderson 1988). However, such reports are not substantiated by studies of gut or faecal contents and probably result from mistaken identity with hyaenas or jackals (Anderson in press), and, fortunately, this perception has now changed and most farmers actively conserve Aardwolves. They are, however, the occasional inadvertent victims of problem animal control operations, especially those using gin traps (M.D. Anderson pers. obs.).

Loss of habitat, through urbanization agricultural expansion, may be having an important negative impact. For example, some farmers in South Africa destroy termitaria, using a plough or poisons, and these areas then become unsuitable for Aardwolves. Poisons used for locust control may also have an affect on Aardwolves (Anderson in press). Other mortality factors include predation by carnivores, and accidental road casualties, which are not uncommon as Aardwolves fail to move out of the way of oncoming vehicles at night (Anderson in press).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Aardwolves are present in numerous well-managed protected areas across their range. Grassland burning and livestock overgrazing results in a gross increase in the population of Trinervitermes, so Aardwolves would benefit in areas where such management takes place (Anderson in press).
The population of Botswana is listed on CITES Appendix III.

Citation: Anderson, M. & Mills, G. 2008. Proteles cristata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 26 May 2015.
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