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Giant Anteater

Fact File

Class: Mammals

Order: Edentata (toothless)

Family: Myrmecophagidae (new world anteaters)

Found: South America

Vital statistics:

Average weight: Male:  37.5 kg  Female:  33 kg

Average length: (head and body) 1.2 metres

Life expectancy:  Life span in the wild: up to: 14 years

Life span in captivity up to: 25 years.

Diet: Carnivore (insectivore)

CARNIVORE

Average gestation:  190 days.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable.

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Giant Anteater

Myrmecophaga tridactyla

Habitat: Giant Anteaters can be found in rural and densely populated areas. Their range includes swamps
and humid forests but they are mostly seen in grasslands where termite and ant
prey are more readily available. They choose secluded covered areas including
abandoned burrows, dense vegetation or depressions in the ground for sleeping.

Threats: Giant Anteaters are classified as threatened in the wild and their numbers are declining.   The main problem they face is loss of habitat due to agriculture and other human activity, this is especially true for Central American populations.  As for many species living in grasslands, fire is an ever present threat.  They are also hunted for food and for the pet trade.

Food: Giant Anteaters have a highly specialised tongue which allows them to eat up to 30,000 ant and termites in a single day!  Ants are a very reliable food source.  The Anteaters will only eat from each termite mound for a minute or so at a time so as not to wipe out their food sources!  They may also lick at fallen fruits and eat soft grubs.

Range: The Giant Anteater ranges from Belize and Guatemala to northern Argentina.

Average gestation:  190 days.  Average litter:  1

Breeding occurs year round both in captivity and in the wild.   Some seasonal breeding times have been reported in portions of their range.   Giant anteaters reach maturity between 2-3 years old.  They are solitary animals with males and females coming together only briefly for courtship. The female gives birth to a single young while standing up.  Young weigh an average of 1.4 kg and are born with a full coat of hair and adult like markings.  The young anteater will immediately climb up onto their mother’s back.  Offspring are weaned in 6 months and will ride on their mother’s back for up to 2 years or until she becomes pregnant.  Sometimes the intervals between births can be as low as 9 months.

Characteristics:

  • Giant anteaters are the largest of the living anteater species.
  • They have no teeth (edentate).
  • They can eat up to 35,000 ants and termites with their tongues daily.
  • Their tongue is attached to the sternum and moves quickly, flicking up to 150 times in a minute. It is covered with a sticky saliva that helps to pick up insects.
  • They are usually diurnal but will become nocturnal in areas of high human density or during certain kinds of weather.
  • They have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell, thought to be 40 times more powerful than that of an average human!
  • They are largely terrestrial but are good swimmers.
  • They walk with a slow shuffle on all four legs. They do not walk on their feet and instead walk on their fists (with their claws curled up into their feet).  This helps to keep their claws sharp.
  • Their claws can be 10 cm in length.
  • Claws are used for digging into ant mounds or to defend themselves from predators.
  • Their predators include Jaguars and Mountain Lions.

 

 

Conservation
How we are Protecting Wild Animals
Throughout most of tropical America large macaws have suffered major population declines as a result of habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade.

The Tambopata Macaw Project is a long term research project, which studies the behaviour, ecology and diet of wild parrots and macaws. The research includes monitoring of home range and habitat use, using GPS surveillance technology, and the study of breeding behaviour through the use of specially designed bird nest boxes with the inclusion of remote cameras.

The project also works to protect the forest – in particular the bird’s nesting and feeding sites. This is largely done by promoting ecotourism in the area – this boosts funds and awareness for the local wildlife as well as providing higher security from illegal logging and poaching.

The information our scientists have uncovered so far has been invaluable to the care and protection of these threatened species, both in this area and across the globe.

Safari Zoo Animals Protected by This Project

Other Wild Animals Protected by This Project

Conservation
How we are Protecting Wild Animals
Throughout most of tropical America large macaws have suffered major population declines as a result of habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade.

The Tambopata Macaw Project is a long term research project, which studies the behaviour, ecology and diet of wild parrots and macaws. The research includes monitoring of home range and habitat use, using GPS surveillance technology, and the study of breeding behaviour through the use of specially designed bird nest boxes with the inclusion of remote cameras.

The project also works to protect the forest – in particular the bird’s nesting and feeding sites. This is largely done by promoting ecotourism in the area – this boosts funds and awareness for the local wildlife as well as providing higher security from illegal logging and poaching.

The information our scientists have uncovered so far has been invaluable to the care and protection of these threatened species, both in this area and across the globe.

Safari Zoo Animals Protected by This Project

Other Wild Animals Protected by This Project