Aardvarks (Orycteropus afer) are so unique that they are the only members of their taxonomic order, the Tubulidentata—a distinction held by no other mammal species. Tubulidentata means “tube of teeth,” and their genus name, Orycteropus, means “digging foot.” The common name “aardvark” is derived from the Afrikaans language, meaning “earth pig.” Armed with their strong tubular mouth and powerful digging abilities, aardvarks root up subterranean termite and ant nests. Like most of the species represented by the PAX TAG, they are nocturnal and elusive.
Native only to Africa, today’s aardvark populations are thinly distributed over sub-Saharan Africa. Folklore would seem to indicate that the species had historically been native to northern Africa as well. Today, local peoples pursue the species as both a source of meat and as a source for magical charms to which superstition has associated medicinal properties. Habitat loss and hunting doubtlessly pose challenges to today’s aardvark populations; nonetheless, their wide distribution has led the IUCN to list them as a species of “Least Concern.”
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