Aardwolf

Aardwolf, Maanhaarjakkals

Proteles cristatus

This pale-buff, hyena-like carnivore has a very wide habitat tolerance, in fact throughout the Southern African region, except true desert and forest.  Only the size of a jackal, but the coarse, pale-buff hair with dark vertical stripes, black mask, bushy tail, and characteristic mane makes it look real mean!

An innocent carnivore that lives almost exclusively from termites (300 000 in one night!) and other insects.  I have heard sheep farmers claiming with confidence that they take lambs, but as far as I know, there is no scientific evidence to back this accusation.  It is nevertheless an interesting debate.  Apart from the canines, the molars and rest of its teeth are feebly under-developed, certainly not ideal for chewing meat.  While calling for jackal, I have experienced aardwolf coming in on a “shrub hare distress” at such speed that both farmer Jannie van Aardt and myself thought it was a jackal.  Why would a termite gobbler zone in on a hare distress call?

Farmer Pierre Swart told me that you have to go a long way to find a dog that can stand its ground against a cornered aardwolf.  I can support this theory of aggression with an experience of a charge from a wounded aardwolf that was accidentally taken for a jackal.

The big picture tells us that we have no reason to harm them, and special care should be taken when night-calling for problem carnivores.  Poisoning of locusts is probably the aardwolf’s biggest threat from man.

Did you know?

Several aardwolf females would give birth in the same den
Black-backed jackal feed on the young of aardwolf
The two parents of a breeding pair share their territory, but forage and sleep separately!
When defecating, an aardwolf can deposit 10% of its body weight in faeces that are 2 inches in diameter, mainly consisting of termite heads and soil!