In the animal kingdom you can always expect the unexpected. But who could’ve imagined two of nature’s more unusual looking creatures, the long-necked ostrich and the pig-snouted aardvark, locked in a madcap pursuit? By Gaynor Siljeur
“Mountain Zebra is an absolute gem of a park to visit, especially in the winter months. That’s when you have a really good chance to see critters not easily seen, like bat-eared fox, aardwolf and aardvark,” Ayesha enthusiastically told Wild.
On a mission to spot the latter, Ayesha was told the best chance of seeing aardvark was on the first warm day after a long streak of cold weather. And so on a sunny winter’s afternoon, the keen photographer found herself patrolling Mountain Zebra’s loops.
“Suddenly, as if it knew it was the topic of some hot gossip, the aardvark came out of hiding. It was snuffling along without any idea of the level of excitement and wonder inside our vehicle!” she reminisced.
“Aardvark are nocturnal but do come out at an earlier time during the winter months. Sometimes for the last bit of warming sunshine on a late afternoon, but mostly to look for food,” Ayesha explained.
These ant-eaters forage for five to seven hours during winter and up to nine hours during summer. They make good use of their unusual-looking snouts to detect termite and ant nests underground and will scrape them open with their front claws. Their long sticky tongue can be protruded for about 20-30cm into these nests and withdrawn with the insects sticking to it.
Ayesha was so busy clicking away that she did not notice an ostrich approaching the scene. “At first it looked like he would simply walk by, but we (and the unsuspecting aardvark) underestimated his intent.
“In an instant the scene changed. With wings spread wide and legs stretched out, the ostrich charged straight at the aardvark.
“The aardvark then quickly turned on a tickey, at first diving for cover and digging for dear life only to realise that it had to think of another escape strategy – and quickly. It bulleted off at great speed in its typical defensive zig-zag motion, leaving the ostrich well in its dust!” (That’s no mean feat as ostriches are capable of reaching 70km/h.)
The chase was over in an instant, leaving Ayesha breathless and more than a little amused after this unbelievable interaction.
SMITHERS’ MAMMALS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA: A FIELD GUIDE.2012. STRUIK NATURE.
Also read: Get to know the oddball aardvark