The Elusive Ardwolf

While driving away from my campsite on a cold misty morning on Machakos ranching I caught glimpse of a black tail racing through the knee high grass. I first thought it was a White tailed Mongoose. I guess it is as ridiculous as it sound to confuse black and white, but what reminded me was the angle it was held. It went up then arched down sideways. The body seemed to gallop off at a different angle.

When it ran out over a rocky river bed I again confused it with another. For it now lopped in a hyena fashion and for a second I thought it was a Striped Hyena. But no it was something much less common. It was an Aardwolf. He or she turned and stood its ground; with hair all bristled, looking 4 times bigger than normal. But its tiny face, miniscule nose and snout and big goofy ears gave it away. Then in a flash it vanished. I was left still groping for my camera.

The odd thing about aardwolves here is that they are mostly seen during the day. Usually near evening. Although I have spent many nights spotlighting I have only seen them a few times near their den. in general I see them during grey days when the wind is down and all is quite. Perhaps then they can use their ears to listen for termites and bugs. It is these small insects and possibly a few rodents that forms the majority of their diet. They have thin long front feet with long claws. These they use to rapidly dig then freeze. They ears twitch their about until they hear the bug moving, then they smack their nose right down upon it.

A few years ago there used to be a car rally that blazed its way across the plains terrifying all before them. Of all the animals to hit, they hit two aardwolves about 6 months apart. The route went within 60m of their den. The urban rally drivers would not have known what they hit even if they cared. In examining the body of one I was amazed at just how small the teeth were. They are smaller than a cat’s. Even stranger was the knobbly tongue and rough ridges on the roof of it mouth. These animals are bizarre, and seem nothing like a dog, nor nothing like a cat. They are unquestionably related to hyena, although very different in many respects.

On the nearby property of Portland Cement at different intervals I took these two pictures. The zebra at first thought its time was up and it looked alarmed. Then it knew it was no threat and went back to grazing. The aardwolf isn’t as close to the zebra as it seems, but it makes an amusing photograph. The other is a bold individual that sat and stared at me for a good five minutes. The light was terrible and i took many blurred images. But this one came out well. The digital camera can see much better than I in dark conditions.

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