Sometime during the early morning hours of December 8th, Laura, a 7 year old female giant anteater whose birthday happens to fall on the same day, gave birth to what is believed to be a male baby. Unfortunately, this happened to be one of the coldest nights of the year in Miami and the newborn was found abandoned in the corner of its holding area, weak and cold. Upon discovery, it was immediately transported to the zoo hospital where the animal health team placed it into intensive care.
Though there was significant doubt that the newborn would survive, it slowly started to become more responsive after being heated up and receiving fluids. Zoo keepers were able to collect natural milk from the mom which was supplemented with a formula substitute and was initially administered directly into the infant’s stomach through a tube that was carefully inserted through the mouth.
Once the baby regained some strength over the first 48 hours, an attempt was made to reintroduce it to its mother. Though the mother initially allowed the baby to be placed on her back, she soon became intolerant of it and her behavior indicated that she was not going to care for it and that it would need to be returned to the hospital for hand-rearing.
Photos and video: Ron Magill
After being initially tube fed, the animal has become stronger and more active. It is now regularly accepting a bottle and drinking on its own. The staff continues work around the clock to feed the infant every 3 hours. At the time of this writing, it continues to gain strength and its distinct black and white coat is beginning to grow in. Zoo veterinarians are cautiously optimistic that the baby has overcome the most serious challenges of its first few days and are hoping that the improvements continue though there are still obstacles ahead as there would be for any infant in this situation.
Giant anteaters are the largest of the four species of anteaters and can reach a length of 6-8 feet. They are found in Central and South America and are listed as vulnerable with their greatest threat being habitat loss. Commonly called an “ant bear,” they have a 2 foot long tongue that can lick up 150 ants and termites per minute. Though they have no teeth, they have powerful front claws which can be used to fend off many threats, including jaguars.