The Staten Island Zoo recently announced the birth of its fourth baby Southern Tamandua.
Named “NJ” by keepers, the female was born on January 2 to mom, DJ, and dad, EJ. She weighed in at a mere 402 grams (about the same weight as a football). NJ is the fourth birth for the breeding Tamandua pair. Mom and baby will be off exhibit for bonding and to ensure the new little girl is growing big and strong.
To date, NJ weighs 1100 grams (about the weight of a large college textbook). She is currently drinking milk produced by mom but will soon move on to bugs that she will “slurp up” with her 16-inch long tongue.
The Southern Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) is often called a ‘Lesser Anteater’ because it is much smaller than its relative, the Giant Anteater. This interesting animal is at home both in trees and on the ground in the rainforests of South America. In the wild, the Tamandua is most active at night, often nesting during the day in hollow tree trunks. It has small eyes and poor vision but can hear and smell quite well. They also have sharp claws and powerful forearms.
According to Kenneth C. Mitchell, the Zoo’s executive director, “Tamandua births are rare in zoos, as the species requires specialized care and has specific nutritional needs. We have had substantial success here, participating in the Species Survival Program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In fact, MJ, one of the males produced by our couple, fathered a baby Tamandua last year at the Dallas Zoo.”
Gestation for the Southern Tamandua ranges from 130 to 190 days, with usually one young born. At birth, a young Anteater does not resemble the parents; its coat varies from white to black. The baby will ride on the mother's back, sometimes being deposited on a safe branch while the mother forages.
The Southern Tamandua is currently classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. However, there are threats their existence in the wild. Hunters, who claim the creatures kill domestic dogs, often kill them. They are also killed for the thick tendons in their tails, from which rope is made.