By The Light Of The Day

Wildlife Spotlight | 20th October 2021

Have a look at this informative blog post by Ranger Jacques Gerber about a rare encounter with an Aardvark foraging for food during daytime on Shambala Private Game Reserve.

On Shambala we sometimes get the opportunity to see the weirdest and most wonderful things whilst out on game drives and bushwalks. Sometimes the smallest of things can leave you in awe, even if it is just an animal behaving a bit abnormal. One day whilst we were busy working on the reserve we saw something strange moving in the distance on one of the open grassland areas and we decided to go investigate. As we got closer we realised how lucky we had got, as we got to see a lone Aardvark busy foraging for food in the middle of the day.

This is quite a special sight as they are very shy, solitary animals that are rarely seen, largely due to the fact that they are nocturnal (mainly active at night time and not during the day). These odd looking creatures, with their pig-like appearance, mainly feed on insects like termites and ants and are known as insectivores. Aardvark can eat up to 60 000 termites and ants in one night thanks to their 30cm-long sticky tongue. They normally only emerge from their dark underground burrows in the late afternoons or shortly after sunset once it has cooled down, but during the colder winter months they may get active long before sunset since termites are less mobile when it is very cold. This may explain my rare sighting of this magnificent little Aardvark during the day.

These interesting animals have well developed senses like smell and hearing that they use to find the termites that they sought after under the ground. Once they find something to eat they use their strong claws to dig into the ground and unravel termite mounds. They also use these senses to protect them from being surprised by predators while foraging. We quite fortunate to get a close encounter with this unique animal as they are not the biggest fans of vehicles and they usually just run away immediately if they hear or see danger.

It was quite intriguing to sit and watch this Aardvark move around with its nose close to the ground in search for something to eat. It was like we were watching a Bloodhound in action following a scent trail of a criminal. Every time I tried to get closer to the Aardvark to have a better look at it, it just moved away and continued looking for food. We tried following it as it was moving, but eventually after a couple of minutes it had enough of being disturbed and ran off in a zigzag like pattern. It moved at quite a pace, almost running like a horse and suddenly it went into a nearby burrow to hide from the vehicle. We were actually surprised by how fast it ran and believe it or not, they can actually run at an estimated speed of about 38-40km/h.

An Aardvark is a very scarce animal to see and we have been privileged to see a few of them on Shambala. It does take a little bit of patience and good luck on your side to find these elusive creatures. Every time I see one it feels like the first time and I just get overwhelmed with excitement. It is one the best experiences to be able to share a sighting of these amazing animals with others, allowing them to see the Aardvark in their natural habitat.

Ranger Jacques Gerber
Shambala Private Game Reserve


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