If fantastic beasts are to be found in the world, why not here, in this indescribably beautiful desert? This short video depicts one of those charmed moments when, undetected, riders watched an Aardvark out foraging in broad daylight. It looks a little like the Niffler in JK Rowlings’ (of Harry Potter fame) new film; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The prehistoric Aardvark is also a long-snouted, burrowing creature – although, unlike the Niffler, it does not have a predilection of shiny things. If you have not seen the movie, do, it is enchanting.
The Aardvark, which means ‘earth-pig’ in Afrikaans, is solitary and generally silent although it grunts softly while foraging. Nocturnal and insectivorous this mammal is sustained entirely on ants and termites which it digs out with its extraordinarily powerful fore claws, lapping them up with its long sticky tongue. Its highly mobile and sensitive snout is much like that of a pig, and it uses both tongue and huge dish-like ears to find prey.
Like the Niffler it digs deep burrows – although in the case of the Aardvark they are for resting in during the heat of the day. The Niffler, apparently a native of England, needs no such escape, although it evidently uses its burrow is for breeding. While slow-moving it darts zig-zag when disturbed – this can be clearly seen in the video when it realises it is surrounded by large horses.
Those who have ridden our Namib Desert Safari know it is the burrows of this ‘fantastic beast’ which are so difficult to avoid when astride a horse galloping across the desert floor.
Oddly the Egyptian god Set is often depicted with a head of an animal which looks curiously like an aardvark – Set was lord of the red soil of Egypt, and god of the desert, of storms, disorder and all that would threaten harmony.
We sincerely hope that our Aardvark brings harmony to our beautiful patch of desert and that, unlike the uncannily crafty Niffler, it does not cause havoc in other’s lives!