A is for Aardvark. A 53-year quest comes to an end.

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“The problem with the alphabet is that it bears no relation to anything at all, and when words are arranged alphabetically they are uselessly separated. In the OED, for example, aardvarks are 19 volumes away from the zoo, yachts are 18 volumes from the beach, and wine is 17 volumes from the nearest corkscrew.” Mark Forsyth( writer)

 

I am aware that THIS is a rhino calf and NOT an Aardvark. And yes, I am aware that the title of this posting is ‘A is for Aardvark’, but bear with me and all will be revealed in due course.

 

This is a White-crested Helmetshrike, easily identifiable by their striking eye size and colour. “But STILL not an Aardvark”, I hear you lament. Your patience will be rewarded…eventually.

Did you know? These birds are cooperative breeders? The flock will have an Alpha pair that bonds for life and their bond is maintained by means of allopreening. Although the Alpha pair chooses the nesting site, all the flock members help to build the nest.

 

Aardvarks will either make their own holes or utilize an abandoned termite mound for shelter. When the accommodation is not being used by the prime occupant, they often have tenants that ‘sublet’. These might include warthogs, porcupines, mongoose and snakes. Disappointingly, this hole was empty of any inhabitants and so my quest to find the elusive Aardvark continued…but not for too much longer!

 

Not too far away from the hole, my quest came to an abrupt and unexpected end, when THIS was spotted shuffling down the side of the road. For a moment neither the guide nor I could believe what we were looking at and there was a moment of stunned silence before we both blurted out “AARDVARK” almost simultaneously. The next 20 minutes was to be an adventure of note as we slowly followed this youngster in his search for food on a cold winter afternoon.

 

African cultural folklore is filled with references to Aardvarks as they are admired for their tireless quest for food and the way they respond to biting soldier ants.

 

They seem to have Hobbit feet. Perhaps this youngster was an extra in the Lord of the Rings trilogy?

 

This particular individual, given the fact that the reserve is still in lockdown and there are not a plethora of guests, was in no hurry to scurry back to its burrow. He meandered along, stopping regularly to scrabble in the dust for a potential meal offering.

Did you know? The Aardvark Cucumber, also known as the Aardvark pumpkin, (Cucumis humifructus), is found in Southern Africa and fruits underground. It is reliant on the Aardvark to eat the fruit in order to spread and re-bury the seeds of the plant.

 

Aardvarks, whose diet is similar to Anteaters, feed mainly on ants and termites, making them formivores.

Did you know? Although often confused by guests from America, Anteaters and Aardvarks are NOT related.  One noticeable difference is that the former is very hairy and have small ears, while the latter has short fur and long ears. While Anteaters belong to the suborder Vermilingua and the Aardvark is the only living species of the order Tubulidentata. Aardvarks are found in Africa; Anteaters in  Central and South America.

 

Much like a Wildebeest,(horns of a buffalo, stripes of a zebra, back like the slope of a hyena and the brain of a guinea fowl), the aardvark seems to have been designed by a committee using left-over parts from a variety of non-related species. It has rabbit-like ears, a tail like a kangaroo and bear-like claws.

 

These rarely seen nocturnal animals are preyed upon by lions, hyenas, leopards and humans, which made this late afternoon sighting that much more special.

 

Mabula Game Lodge is currently undergoing renovations in preparation for their reopening to the public once the lockdown limitations have been lifted.

 

 

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