Visitors to Longleat Safari & Adventure Park in Wiltshire, UK had an unexpected surprise when they witnessed the arrival of a rare baby Giant Anteater. Choccy, as he’s been nicknamed by keepers, made his unscheduled appearance on March 9 in front of a stunned audience of onlookers. The tiny anteater’s arrival is particularly welcome as the species is officially listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
For the first six months mom Maroni will carry Choccy on her back virtually all the time. The baby takes milk by moving around underneath her and only very rarely lets go. The baby aligns itself to the pattern on mom's back to provide camouflage from any predators who might prey on the young. It’s so effective that it’s almost as if the baby become invisible.
Giant Anteaters originate from South America and can be found in tropical and deciduous forests. As its name suggests the giant anteater is the largest of the anteater family and can grow to over two metres in length with tongues that extend to more than 60cm. Their long nose, tongue and sharp claws enable them to get to into ant and termite mounds, eating over 30,000 insects in a single day!
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The mother, Maroni, was born in France, and German dad Bonito arrived at Longleat two years ago. Both are part of a co-ordinated European Breeding Program for the species.