An animal that begins with Aa..

After my last feel-good photos, these pictures are more nitty-gritty.

The things we typically like to photograph, like lions, are the apex predators of a food chain.  Near the bottom is the lowly termite, one species of which builds these mounds, with multiple chimneys.

Termite mound

The workers are rather fearsome close-up:

Termite

But they are no match for one of their main enemies, the aardvark, Orycteropus afer. I have never seen a live aardvark, since they are nocturnal and secretive, but here is a photo of one (from a Creative Commons website):

15416759246_ed3d480eb5_z

They excavate anthills and termite mounds with huge strong claws, and lick out the ants with a tongue that can extend up to 30cm ( a foot!). This is a fresh aardvark hole under some tree roots (taken in the Kakamega rain forest a few days earlier):

A fresh aardvark excavation under tree roots, looking for ants.

The aardvark, in turn, is food for the lion, and in the Maasai Mara a few days later we came across this sated lioness under a tree; look closely to the left of the photo, and you will see her dinner:

DSC07318

And on close inspection we saw the heavy muscular tail and huge claws of an aardvark:

DSC07319Nature really is “red in tooth and claw.”

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