Aardwolf in Kenya Description
The aardwolf (Proteles cristata) is a small, insectivorous mammal, native to East and Southern Africa. Its name means “earth wolf” in Afrikaans and Dutch. It is also called “maanhaar jackal” (Afrikaans for “mane jackal”) or civet hyena, based on its habit of secreting substances from its anal gland, a characteristic shared with the civet. The aardwolf is in the same family as the hyena.
Unlike many of its relatives in the order Carnivora, the aardwolf does not hunt large animals. It eats insects, mainly termites – one aardwolf can eat about 250,000 termites during a single night, using its long, sticky tongue to capture them. The aardwolf lives in the shrublands of eastern and southern Africa – open lands covered with stunted trees and shrubs. It is nocturnal, resting in burrows during the day and emerging at night to seek food. Its diet consists mainly of termites and insect larvae.
The aardwolf is the only surviving species in the mammalian subfamily Protelinae. There is disagreement as to whether the species is monotypic or can be divided into subspecies P. c. cristatus of Southern Africa and P. c. septentrionalis of East Africa. Recent studies have shown that the aardwolf probably broke away from the rest of the hyena family early on; however, how early is still unclear, as the fossil record and genetic studies disagree by 10 million years.
The aardwolf is generally classified with the Hyaenidae, though it was formerly placed into the family Protelidae. Early on, scientists felt that it was merely mimicking the striped hyena, which subsequently led to the creation of Protelidae.
The aardwolf resembles a very thin striped hyena, but with a more slender muzzle, black vertical stripes on a coat of yellowish fur, and a long, distinct mane down the midline of the neck and back. It also has one or two diagonal stripes down the fore- and hind-quarters, along with several stripes on its legs.
Aardwolf in Kenya – Photo