A Giant Anteater was born at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on February 22. The mother (dam), named Stella-Abril, and her offspring are doing well. Stella was born on April 28, 1997, and this is her fifth offspring since arriving at the Jacksonville Zoo on May 6, 1998. Killroy, the father (sire), was born October 15, 1999 and arrived at the Zoo on August 16, 2000. This is the 15th Giant Anteater born at the Jacksonville Zoo. This was a highly anticipated birth, in part because veterinary and keeper staff had been performing routine ultrasounds, enabling close monitoring of fetal development. Stella was an excellent patient for these procedures, especially since they were completely voluntary and didn’t require any sedation--just a steady supply of ripe avocado.
“Giant anteater births in zoos are still fairly rare, and I’m proud of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ prolific history with this fascinating species”, says Dan Maloney, the Zoo’s Deputy Director of Conservation and Education.
Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recommended the pairing and breeding of these two animals as part its giant anteater Yellow Species Survival Plan. Anteaters are listed as NT (near threatened) on the IUCN Red Data List.
Anteaters are edentate animals—they have no teeth. Their long tongues are more than sufficient to lap up the 35,000 ants and termites they swallow whole each day. Giant anteaters use their sharp claws to tear openings into anthills so they can put their long snout and efficient tongue to work. However, their prey, the ants, will fight back with painful stings, so an anteater may spend only a minute feasting on each mound. They have to eat quickly, flicking their tongue up to 160 times per minute. Anteaters are careful to never destroy a nest, preferring instead to return and feed again in the future.
Giant anteaters are found in Central and South America, where they prefer tropical forests and grasslands. The Giant Anteater can reach seven feet long from tip of its snout to the end of its tail. They are not normally aggressive, but a cornered anteater can be fierce, rearing up on its hind legs using its tail for balance, and lashing out with dangerous claws that are some four inches long. They can fight off even a puma or a jaguar.