The 2002 South African IUCN red list places the aardvark in the least concern category. It was previously considered vulnerable but this was almost certainly the result of its elusive behaviour, making it difficult to see, and thus appear uncommon. In other southern African countries their status is probably least concern as well, but in central and east Africa, their status is less well documented. Densities are however low, and in South Africa a population of 100 animals is thought to require an area of approximately 12500 ha. The most important factor effecting aardvark populations is the abundance and distribution of their prey, ants and termites. Another limiting factor is soil type (very shallow soils might restrict their range). Loss of habitat as a result of increasing human populations, and possibly hunting (for traditional medicine and bush meat) are probably their greatest threats. In some areas they cause problems for farmers, whereby they dig under fences or digs holes in roads or farm dam walls. In such areas persecution of aardvarks may occur. Fortunately for aardvarks the threat of hunting is reduced by their nocturnal habits, which make them difficult animals to catch.
Commensal feeding associations are recorded. The Aardwolf Proteles cristatus, which is unable to open termitaries itself, exploits the ability of the Aardvark to do so. During winter in South Africa Trinervitermes trinervoides remain within their termitaries where Aardwolves cannot reach them. This considerably reduces the amount of food available and Aardwolves lose condition. At these times they often follow Aardvarks and feed on freshly exposed termites (Taylor & Skinner 2000). When Aardvarks become active during the day, Southern Anteater-chat Myrmecocichla formicivora hang around and feed on ants from freshly opened nests (Taylor & Skinner 2001). Similar associations are known with baboons (J. Kingdon pers. comm.).
Although Aardvarks do not interact directly with other species, indirectly they impact on them via their burrows, many of which remain unused by Aardvarks and are available for other species. They provide sleeping shelter for many species, including warthogs, porcupines, Aardwolves, pangolins, jackals, genets, Black-footed Cats Felis nigripes, mongooses and any mammals small enough to enter (Smithers 1971). Hyaenas and African Wild Dogs Lycaon pictus may use them to shelter their young. They are even known to provide roosts for bats, notably Nycteris spp. Snakes and lizards are also important users of burrows, as are some birds such as the Southern Anteater-chat and Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea which make nesting chambers in the roof of the burrow entrance. Excavated termitaries also provide shelter for many snakes and lizards as well as nests for small mammals such as the Southern African Pygmy Mouse Mus minuotoides and Suncus varilla Lesser Dwarf Shrew (Smithers 1971, A. Taylor pers. obs, S. Cilliers pers. comm.). Aardvarks never share burrows with conspecifics, but have been know to share with porcupines, probably in a separate chamber (A. Taylor pers. obs.).
Predators, Parasites and Diseases
Lion Panthera leo, Leopard Panthera pardus, Spotted Hyaena Crocuta crocuta and African Rock Python Python sebae are the main predators of the Aardvark, although smaller predators may take young. Shoshani et al. (1988), reviewing the literature available at the time, list a number of ectoparasites including ticks, such as Haemaphysalis muhsami, Hyalomma impressum, and a number of species of the genus Rhiphicephalus; sucking lice (Haematopinus notophallus and Hybophthirus notophallus), a flea (Echidnophaga larina) and various flies. Endoparasites include flagellates (Trichomonas sp. and Trypanosoma spp.); an amoeba (Entamoeba sp.); a thorny headed worm (Nephridiacanthus longissimus); various roundworms and a pentastome (Armillifer armillatus). Diseases are unknown.