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: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-09-29
Assessor(s): Green, D.S.
Reviewer(s): Dloniak, S.M.D. & Holekamp, E.
Contributor(s): Anderson, M. & Mills, M.G.L.
The Aardwolf is listed as Least Concern as it is reasonably widespread, present in numerous protected areas, and there are no major threats or evidence of any significant range-wide declines.

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 northeastern Africa and one in southern Africa. Their distribution is largely determined by the distribution of Trinervitermes termites, which constitute their principle food (Anderson 2013).

The northern subspecies extends from central Tanzania to northeastern Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia, then narrowly along the coast of Eritrea and Sudan to extreme southeastern Egypt (in the Sudan Government Administration Area) (Yalden et al. 1996, Hofer and Mills 1998, Hoath 2003, Anderson 2013). Their presence in Djibouti is unclear (Künzel et al. 2000). A road kill from near Mbatwa in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania in 2002 is probably the most southerly record for the northern subspecies (De Luca and Mpunga 2005).

The southern subspecies ranges over most of southern Africa, extending just into southwest Angola, southern Zambia (apparently south of the Kafue River), and south-west Mozambique, but it is entirely absent from Malawi, southern Tanzania, and most of Zambia (Hofer and Mills 1998, Anderson 2013). 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 2013).
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 2013). 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). They have also been recorded at 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. Aardwolves are largely independent of water (except during prolonged cold spells), satisfying their moisture requirements from termites (Anderson 2013). Comprehensive reviews of the species' ecology can be found in Koehler and Richardson (1990) and Anderson (2013).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

There have been documented accounts of Aardwolves being consumed as food or used in medicinal practices by indigenous tribes in Africa (Richardson 1984, Koehler and Richardson 1990, Mills and Hofer 1998).

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 on 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 2013). 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. 2014).

Loss of habitat, through urbanization and 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 adverse effect on Aardwolves (Anderson 2013). Additional mortality factors include predation by other carnivores, and accidental road casualties as Aardwolves fail to move out of the way of oncoming vehicles at night (Anderson 2013).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Aardwolves are present in numerous well-managed protected areas across their range. Grassland burning and livestock overgrazing result in a gross increase in the population of Trinervitermes, so Aardwolves would benefit in areas where management strategies favour these conditions (Anderson 2013). The population in Botswana is listed on CITES Appendix III.

Bibliography [top]

Anderson, M.D. 1988. The aardwolf - harmless "ant-eater". Farmers Weekly August 19: 34-36.

Anderson, M.D. 2013. Proteles cristatus. In: J. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds), The Mammals of Africa. Volume V: Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids, Rhinoceroses, pp. 560. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

De Luca, D.W. and Mpunga, N.E. 2005. Small carnivores of the Udzungwa Mountains: presence, distribution and threats. Small Carnivore Conservation 32: 1-7.

Hoath, R. 2003. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt and New York, USA.

Hofer, H. and Mills, M.G.L. 1998a. Worldwide distribution of Hyaenas. In: M.G.L. Mills and H. Hofer (eds), Hyaenas. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, pp. 39-63. IUCN/SSC Hyaena Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. Available at: (Accessed: 23 June 2015).

Koehler, C.E. and Richardson, P.R.K. 1990. Proteles cristatus. Mammalian Species 363: 1-6.

Künzel, T., Rayaleh, H.A. and Künzel, S. 2000. Status Assessment Survey on Wildlife in Djibouti. Final Report. Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (Z.S.C.S.P.) and Office National du Tourisme et de l’Artisanat (O.N.T.A.).

Lynch, C.D. 1994. The mammals of Lesotho. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum Bloemfontein 10(4): 177-241.

Mills, M.G.L. and Hofer, H. (eds). 1998. Hyaenas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. pp. 154. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Richardson, P.R.K. 1984. Socio-ecology of the aardwolf in relation to its conservation. Hyaena Specialist Group Newsletter 1: 32-36.

Skinner, J.D. and Chimimba, C.T. (eds). 2005. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, Cambridge.

Yalden, D.W., Largen, M.J., Kock, D. and Hillman, J.C. 1996. Catalogue of the Mammals of Ethiopia and Eritrea. 7. Revised checklist, zoogeography and conservation. Tropical Zoology 9(1): 73-164.

Citation: Green, D.S. 2015. Proteles cristata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 31 August 2015.
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