‘Tobi the Tamandua’ took-up residence at ZSL London Zoo, last October, as a potential companion for female, Ria. Zookeepers hoped to someday hear the pitter patter of tiny Tamandua toes. So, the Zoo was overjoyed when just five months later they spotted a tiny baby clinging to Ria’s back. When keepers did the math, they discovered that Ria must have fallen pregnant the same week of meeting her new mate, making newcomer Tobi a very fast mover!
ZSL keeper, Steve Goodwin, said, “Ria went into her nest box that morning, which isn’t unusual, as Tamanduas are nocturnal animals and often nap during the day. But at around 5pm, as the sun began to set, she amazed us all when she came outside for her evening explorations with a tiny newborn holding onto her fur.”
“We were confidant Ria was pregnant, as she’d just started to put on some weight, but we weren’t expecting to welcome a new member of the family quite so soon. They must have got together pretty much on their very first date – Tobi clearly pulled out all the stops!”
The new baby, nicknamed ‘Poco’ by keepers, has remained close to Ria since the Easter Monday birth. Mum is sometimes seen tucking the youngster safely away in a hollow log.
Now, the two-month-old has started to tentatively venture away from mum to explore its “Rainforest Life” home, which the Zoo’s Tamanduas share with Two-toed Sloths (Marilyn, Leander and baby Lento), Emperor Tamarins, Red Titi Monkeys and Fruit Bats.
Steve added, “We set up a camera to keep a close eye on the pair, as they’re most active at night: we’ve been delighted to see the youngster peeking its head out of the tree stump at after dark, and now Ria is confident enough to carry her around the exhibit visitors will be able to spot the pair - especially at our Zoo Nights events this summer.”
The little one has also been spotted practicing sticking out its long tongue, which will grow up to 40cm in length and is used to extract tasty insects from inside branches and holes.
The Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) is a nocturnal mammal. It is part of the anteater family and native to South America. They are also impressive climbers - holding on to mum enables the infant to build up the valuable muscles needed to climb easily through the treetop branches of London’s only living rainforest.
Juvenile Tamanduas spend the first three months clinging to their mother’s backs, sliding down to feed before pulling themselves back up to nestle into mum’s fur. They have fantastic camouflage as their distinguishable matching patterns align to create one continuous stripe, allowing the young pup to avoid the eyes of predators.
Keepers won’t know the youngster’s sex until it is scanned by vets, as the baby will remain close to mum until around six-months-old. Boy or girl, the newborn is a valuable addition to its species and once its sex is confirmed, its details will be added to the European Studbook (ESB), part of a coordinated breeding programme for Tamanduas.
The youngster’s public debut is just in time for the ZSL London’s Zoo Nights event. Every Friday, throughout June, visitors will be able to explore the Zoo after-hours, seeing its 19,000 animals in a completely different light.
See the Zoo come alive after dark at Zoo Nights. To book tickets or find out more, visit: www.zsl.org/ZSLZooNights