A rare, baby Giant Anteater has been born at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park, in the UK! The endangered South American mammal, named Julie-Poppet, was born in early July. She is only the third Giant Anteater to be born at the Wiltshire safari park.
The Giant Anteater is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and Julie-Poppet is now a significant part of the preservation of her species. Between 2000 and 2010, the total population of the species declined by 30%.
“To have a successful birth with our anteaters is fantastic, as the species is under increasing threat in the wild,” said keeper Catriona Carr. “It’s especially good to see mum and Julie-Poppet showing all the usual signs of a mother and baby relationship in the early stages.”
“For the first six months Maroni will carry the baby on her back virtually all the time. The baby takes milk by moving around underneath mum and only very rarely lets go.”
“The baby aligns itself to the pattern on mum’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 becomes invisible,” she added.
Mum Maroni, who was born in France, and German dad Bonito arrived at Longleat five years ago as part of a coordinated European Breeding Programme for the species.
The Giant Anteater can be found in multiple habitats, including grassland and rainforest. 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 can eat up to 30,000 insects in one day! Though Giant Anteaters live in overlapping home ranges, they are mostly solitary.
The species is the largest of its family: 5.97 to 7.12 feet (182-217 cm) in length, weights up to 73 to 90 lbs. (33-41 kg) for males, and 60 to 86 lbs. (27-39 kg) for females. The Giant Anteater is recognizable by its elongated snout, bushy tail, long fore claws, and distinctively colored pelage.
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 3.1 lbs. (1.4 kg). Females give birth standing upright. Pups are born with both eyes closed and begin to open them after six days. The mother carries its dependent pup on her back. The pup’s black and white band aligns with its mother’s markings, camouflaging it. The young communicate with their mothers using sharp whistles. After three months, a pup will begin to eat solid food and will be fully weaned at ten months.
The mother grooms her offspring during periods of rest that last up to an hour. Grooming times peak during the first three months and decline as the young reaches about nine months of age. The decline mirrors the weakening bond between mother and baby; young anteaters usually become independent by nine to ten months and are sexually mature in 2.5 to 4 years.
Threats to its survival include: habitat destruction, fire, and poaching for fur and bush meat. The Giant Anteater is historically featured in pre-Columbian myths and folktales, as well as modern popular culture.
(The following is an informative video of Julie-Poppet's older brother and mum, Maroni. It offers a glimpse at the care and attention Julie-Poppet is now receiving.)