Aardwolf: Social Behavior

The aardwolf is socially monogamous, a mated pair occupying a perennial territory with their most recent offspring. The offspring stay in their natal territory for one year, and disperse around the time when the next litter is born. Territories are fiercely guarded and range in size from one to four km², the size being determined by the availability of termites. An intruder may be advanced upon or chased by either sex.  When intruders are encountered within the territory the resident immediately raises the long mane along its back and, particularly if the intruder is of the same sex, chases it to the border. Intruders are seldom caught, and fights only rarely occur between males during the mating season. Fighting may be highly aggressive and accompanied by deep roars, with animals being bitten on the neck and sometimes the rump.

Apart from aggressive encounters, territories are maintained by means of depositing (pasting) secretions from the anal gland on grass stalks (Richardson 1987b, 1991), as is the case with other members of Hyaenidae. Both sexes scent mark (paste), although males mark more than females. Pasting occurs on average more than two times per 100 m moved and about 200 times per night. Scent marks are concentrated along the territory boundary and at dens and middens (Richardson 1987b,1991). Aardwolves also have areas within their territories that are designated for urination and defecation spread throughout their territories. These areas are called middens. Individuals dig a hole in the midden each time they visit it to urinate or defecate. After urination or defecation is completed, the hole is covered up by the individual (Koehler and Richardson, 1990).

The aardwolf uses various sensory modalities in communication. Vocal communication is limited and generally directed at intruders or predators. It consists of a clucking sound, made by opening and closing the mouth, a deep growl, or a roar. The aardwolf has no long distance call (Peters and Sliwa 1997). Visual signals in communication include erection of the mane or active chasing, both also directed at intruders or predators. Scent-marking is also done to establish territory boundaries (Koehler and Richardson, 1990; Richardson and Bearder, 1999). To distinguish territory boundaries, P. cristata produces scent marks by rubbing secretions from the anal glands on grass stalks at approximately 50 m intervals around the perimeter of their territory. This is followed by intermittent markings in the interior of the territory. Both the male and female scent-mark, but males do this more frequently (Koehler and Richardson, 1990; Richardson and Bearder, 1999).

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