Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is celebrating the birth of their first-ever Giant Anteater! The baby, whose sex is still undetermined, was born on exhibit on November 25 to mom, Pica, and dad, Kutter. The baby seems to be healthy and thriving. For now, animal care and veterinary staff are keeping their distance and giving mom and baby time to bond, as Pica is very protective of her newborn. (We're told it was even tricky to snap a few photos!) Now weighing about two pounds, the little Anteater will cling to mom's back for several weeks as it develops.
The successful birth of this tricky-to-care-for species was the result of careful collaboration between the zoo's conservation and science staff. To predict the optimal time to pair Pica with Kutter, staff sampled the hormones in Pica's urine. Further hormone monitoring allowed the zoo to confirm Pica’s pregnancy and make a reasonable prediction of when the birth might take place.
The baby Anteater is a welcome addition not just to the zoo, but to the managed nationwide population of Giant Anteaters as well. The zoo participates in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Giant Anteaters, which are classified as Vulnerable in the wild. SSPs are cooperative breeding and management groups for endangered or threatened species such as Black Rhinos, African Elephants, Lowland Gorillas and Amur Tigers.
Giant Anteaters are native to Central and South America and can eat tens of thousands of ants and termites in a single day with their long, sticky tongues. Full-grown males can measure up to 7 feet (2.13 m) long and weigh more than 100 pounds (45.36 kg).