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“Aardvark” is the first word in the English dictionary – ‘A is for aardvark‘. It’s also a fascinating and elusive animal that many experienced travellers to Africa desperately want to see. Here are some amazing facts about this wonderful creature:

aardvark
© Magnus Hurd

1. Aardvarks can eat up to 60 000 ants and termites in one night, thanks to its 30cm-long sticky tongue

2. They can seal their nostrils, to keep out dust and ants

3. They have poor eyesight but a very keen sense of smell and good hearing

4. Their spoon-shaped claws are like steel – and used to rip into extremely hard ground and termite mounds

5. Their burrows, often in termite mounds, can be up to 13m long and have several entrances

6. They change burrows frequently, providing opportunities for subsequent residents like wild dogs, pythons, warthogs and South African shelduck

7. They are nocturnal and travel up to 16km every night, foraging for food

8. They grow up to 2m meters long and weigh up to 60kg

9. With the body of a pig, ears of a rabbit, tongue of an anteater and tail of a kangaroo, this creature is the only species in its order and probably most closely related to elephants

ALSO READ:

Aardvarks and climate change

Is ‘aarvark’ the first word in the dictionary?

” … Finally, we strike gold with the first truly lexical entry. And it is? (A very muffled drumroll for) aa, meaning a stream or watercourse, last spotted in 1430 and marked as not only obsolete but rare. Several more curiosities, including some that may be useful for Scrabblists, intervene (aal, from Hindi, the Indian mulberry tree, aapa, from Urdu, meaning older sister) before we get back to our ant-eating, ground-digging mammal with its thirty-centimetre-long tongue …”

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