Giant Anteater Sticks to Mom Like Velcro
September 01, 2015
Zoo Boise is happy to announce the birth of a Giant Anteater pup. The baby was born July 6 and is now starting to venture outside with its mother, Gloria. After a few weeks of privacy inside their barn, the two anteaters are starting to explore their outdoor exhibit for short periods of time and may be viewable to zoo visitors.
With the exception of mothers with offspring, anteaters are generally solitary animals. Anteater Dad, McCauley, can be found in a separate exhibit next to Gloria and their pup. Keepers will verify the sex of the pup during its first veterinarian exam. After that, they will decide upon a name for the new anteater.
During their first year, giant anteater pups will spend much of their time riding on their mothers’ backs. Born with a full coat of fur, the pup is able to blend in with its mother so that predators cannot easily see it. The pup will stay with its mother until it is full-grown, between one and two years of age.
Also known as the Ant Bear, the Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is a large insectivorous mammal native to Central and South America. It is one of four living species of anteaters and is classified with sloths in the order Pilosa. The species is mostly terrestrial, in contrast to other living anteaters and sloths, which are arboreal or semi arboreal.
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.
The Giant Anteater is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 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.