December 21st not only marked the beginning of winter, it also marked the arrival of a special new resident of Zoo Miami…a Giant Anteater pup!
This is the first Giant Anteater birth in the history of the zoo. Mom is 3 years old and arrived at Zoo Miami in 2014 from Zoo Boise. The first time dad is 7 years old and arrived from Busch Gardens in 2010. Although the new pup recently had its first neonatal exam, it is still difficult to determine the sex. So far, the baby is healthy and is successfully nursing, and the first time mother is exhibiting outstanding maternal care.
Zoo Miami’s newborn will ride on its mother’s back for up to a year before becoming more independent.
Keepers report that it will be several weeks before the Giant Anteater pup will be exhibited to the public to insure that it is well bonded with its mother and progressing normally.
Photo Credits: Ron Magill/ Zoo Miami
Giant Anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) are the largest of the four Anteater species and boast one of the most fascinating tongues in the animal kingdom. They are specialist predators of termites and ants and may consume tens of thousands of these tiny nutritious insects every day. Anteaters are edentate animals; they have no teeth. Ant and termite nests are ripped open with their powerful claws, and the tongue acts as animated flypaper. These tongues can protrude more than 2 feet (60 cm) to capture prey. Ants possess a painful sting when attacked, so Anteaters have to eat quickly. They do so by flicking their tongue up to 160 times per minute to avoid being stung. An Anteater may spend only a minute feasting on each mound. They never destroy a nest, preferring to return and feed again in the future.
Anteaters are generally solitary animals, except during the mating season. After a gestation period of around 190 days, the female produces a single pup, which weighs approximately 1.3kg. The female gives birth standing up and the young Anteater immediately climbs onto her back. The young are born with a full coat of hair and adult-like markings, aligning with their mother’s camouflaging. A mother will carry the baby on her back for approximately 6 to 9 months (until it is almost half her size). The young suckle for 2 to 6 months and become independent after roughly 2 years, or when the mother becomes pregnant again.
Giant Anteaters are prey for Jaguars and Pumas in the wild. They typically flee from danger by galloping away, but if cornered, they use their immense front claws to defend themselves, rearing up on their hind legs, striking their attacker violently with their powerful claws and are capable of inflicting fatal wounds to predators.
The Giant Anteater is considered to be the most threatened mammal of Central America and is feared extinct in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Uruguay, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Giant Anteaters are listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. Habitat loss, road kills, hunting and wildfires have substantially affected their population numbers over the last ten years. Scientists estimate that 5,000 individuals are left in the wild.
More great pics, below the fold!