The World Needs Aardvarks: Burrow-builders of the African Wild

Posted February 24, 2018
Winsol the aardvark (Photo: DJJAM)
Winsol the aardvark (Photo: DJJAM)

If you’re enjoying watching Winsol, our young aardvark, grow up, you’ll be glad to know how important his species is to the aardvark’s natural ecosystem in the wild.

Acting as “ecosystem engineers” of the African savannah and woodlands, aardvarks dig burrows. Just take a look at Winsol’s fascinating physique, and you can see how. Broad forefeet with powerful claws make great excavation tools. Aardvarks can close their nostrils to keep out dirt while digging, and their eyes are equipped to see well in the dark.

An aardvark’s burrow can be up to 40 feet long, with several entrances. Inside, the temperature and humidity remain relatively stable compared with the extreme temperature fluctuations outside.

Once the aardvark has moved on, its abandoned burrow provides a safe hideaway for a multitude of other wildlife, including hyenas, warthogs, squirrels, hedgehogs, mongooses, bats, birds, snakes, lizards, and more. A recent study of three separate aardvark burrow sites found evidence of 25 mammal species, 7 bird species, 6 reptile species and one amphibian species (Whittington-Jones, 2018). Some inhabitants, like African painted dogs and black-footed cats face the threat of extinction, so a stable habitat is especially important to them. Thus, by protecting aardvarks, we can safeguard numerous other species.

So when you enjoy watching videos of Winsol or visiting aardvarks at the Zoo, remember, these interesting creatures are critical to the survival of other species in the wild!