Orycteropus afer


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Orycteropus afer
Species Authority: (Pallas, 1766)
Common Name(s):
English Aardvark, Antbear
French Oryctérope

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Lindsey, P., Cilliers, S., Griffin, M., Taylor, A., Lehmann, T. & Rathbun, G. (IUCN SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group)
Reviewer(s): Rathbun, G. (Afrotheria Red List Authority) and Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)
Although Aardvarks are not commonly seen, they are often relatively common in suitable habitats. They are sometimes considered rare because of their elusive behavior and not a result of low numbers. Although their numbers undoubtedly are reduced in areas where their habitat is altered by human activities, given their widespread, nearly pan-African distribution south of the Sahara there are few concerns in regard to the species' overall conservation status. The species is listed as Least Concern.
2006 Least Concern (IUCN 2006)
2006 Least Concern
2003 Least Concern (IUCN 2003)
2003 Least Concern
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Aardvark is widely distributed south of the Sahara from Senegal to Ethiopia to South Africa, being absent from the Sahara and Namib Deserts. It is also present in the Congo Basin, although its distribution in West African rainforests is poorly known (Taylor in press). The distribution of the Aardvark is largely determined by the distribution of suitable ant and termite species.
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; 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: Current population trends are not known. In southern Africa there is no reason to believe that they are decreasing or increasing significantly due to any factors other than natural variations due to the variable nature of the arid habitats they occupy. However, in eastern, central, and western Africa, numbers may be declining as a result of the expansion of human populations, the destruction of habitat, and hunting for meat. Densities vary according to habitat suitability, including the abundance of prey.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Aardvark occur in a broad range of habitats, including the semi-arid Karoo areas of southern Africa, grasslands, all savanna types, rainforests (but not swamp forests; F. Maisels pers. comm.), woodlands and thickets (Shoshani et al. 1988; Taylor in press). They are absent from hyper-arid habitats and avoid very rocky terrain that is difficult to dig in; for example, they occur in the eastern Namib Desert. Aardvarks have been recorded at 3,200 m asl in the highlands of Ethiopia (Yalden et al. 1996). They feed almost exclusively on ants and termites but sometimes eat other insects, such as pupae of scarabaeid beetles (Taylor et al. 2002). They can obtain all their water requirements from their food. Aardvarks are anatomically adapted to dig, and they extract all their food from underground. They also dig burrows in which they rest during the day and which they use to escape predators (Taylor and Skinner 2003). Because many animals, from invertebrates to other mammals, use these burrows the Aardvark is often considered a keystone species (Cilliers 2002). Aardvarks are generally nocturnal, although they may come out in the afternoon in cold weather. They are solitary, only coming together occasionally for very short periods. Very little is known about reproduction in the wild.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no known major threats to the species. Localized threats include habitat loss due to agriculture and subsistence hunting. Hatt (1934) recorded indigenous hunters in the Congo killing Aardvarks trapped in burrows, and Mbuti pygmies in the Ituri Forest in DR Congo smoke them out of their burrows (Carpaneto and Germi 1989). The meat is prized, while other parts of the Aardvark, such as the skin, claws and teeth, are used to make bracelets, charms and curios, and for some medicinal purposes (Carpaneto and Germi 1989). In western Kenya (1960s), local hunters flooded burrows to kill animals for food (G. Rathbun pers. comm.)..

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no major conservation problems facing this taxon, and they are present in a number of large and well-managed protected areas across their range. Therefore, no targeted conservation measures are needed or recommended at present or in the foreseeable future.

Bibliography [top]

Carpaneto, G.M. and Germi, F.P. 1989. The mammals in the zoological culture of the Mbuti pygmies in north-eastern Zaire. Hystrix – Italian Journal of Mammalogy 1: 1-83.

Cilliers, S. 2002. The ecological importance of the aardvark. Afrotherian Conservation - Newsletter of the IUCN-SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group 1: 7-8.

Hatt, R.T. 1934. The pangolins and aardvarks collected by the American Museum Congo Expedition. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 66: 643-672.

Pagès, E. 1970. Sur l'écologie et les adaptations de l'oryctérope et des pangolins sympatriques d'Afrique. Biologia Gabonica. 6: 27-92.

Shoshani, J., Goldman, C. A. and Thewissen, J. G. M. 1988. Orycteropus afer. Mammalian Species 300: 1-8.

Taylor, W.A. 2013. Orycteropus afer Aardvark. In: J. S. Kingdon, D. H. D. Happold, M. Hoffmann, T. Butynski, M. Happold and J. Kalina (eds), Mammals of Africa. Volume 1. Introductory Chapters and Afrotheria, pp. 290-295. Bloomsbury Publishing, London, London.

Taylor, W.A. and Skinner, J.D. 2003. Activity patterns, home ranges and burrow utilisation of aardvark (Orycteropus after) in the Karoo. Journal of Zoology (London) 261: 291-297.

Taylor, W.A., Lindsey, P.A. and Skinner, J.D. 2002. The feeding ecology of the aardvark Orycteropus afer. Journal of Arid Environments 50: 135-152.

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: Lindsey, P., Cilliers, S., Griffin, M., Taylor, A., Lehmann, T. & Rathbun, G. (IUCN SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group) 2008. Orycteropus afer. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 26 May 2015.
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