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Long-Awaited Anteater Pup at Nashville Zoo

1_Praim's Baby Girl - 2017 - Margarita Colburn4

A Giant Anteater pup was recently born at the Nashville Zoo. The female arrived on October 22, and she is the first of her kind born at the Zoo since 2011.

The pup, named Isabel, has been under the careful attention of mom, Praim. According to sources, Isabel weighed-in at three pounds and was around 26 inches at birth.

2_Praim's Baby Girl - 2017 - Margarita Colburn3

3_Praim's Baby Girl - 2017 - Margarita Colburn2Photo Credits: Nashville Zoo / Margarita Woc Colburn, DVM

The Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), also known as the ‘ant bear’, is a large insectivorous mammal native to Central and South America. It is classified with Sloths in the order Pilosa.

The species is mostly terrestrial and is the largest of its family. It is especially recognizable by its elongated snout, bushy tail, and long fore claws. Adults can grow to a total length of around 7 feet and a maximum weight of around 90 pounds.

The Giant Anteater can be found in grasslands and rainforests. It forages in open areas and rests in more forested habitats. It feeds primarily on ants and termites, using its fore claws to dig them up and its long, sticky tongue to collect them.

They are mostly solitary, except during mother-offspring relationships. Giant anteaters can mate throughout the year. Gestation lasts around 190 days and ends with the birth of a single pup, which typically weighs around 1.4 kg (3.1 lb). Females give birth standing upright.

Pups are born with eyes closed and begin to open them after six days. The mother carries its pup on its back for the first few months. The pup's black and white band aligns with its mother's, camouflaging it. The young communicate with their mothers with sharp whistles and use their tongues during nursing. After three months, the pup begins to eat solid food and is fully weaned by ten months. The mother grooms her offspring during rest periods lasting up to an hour. Grooming peaks during the first three months and declines as the young reaches nine months of age. Young Anteaters usually become independent by nine or ten months.

The Giant Anteater is currently listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It has been extirpated from many parts of its former range, including nearly all of Central America. Threats to its survival include: habitat destruction, fire, and poaching for fur and bush meat.