Posted November 17, 2023 in Conservation
World Anteater Day 2023
World Anteater Day takes place on the 19th November every year to help increase awareness of this incredible species. Find out some fun facts about our nosey friends below!
GIANT ANTEATER (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
The Giant Anteater is the largest Anteater species of South America, ranging from Belize to Guatemala. They sleep for around 15 hours a day but do manage to consume over 30,000 ants and termites a day! Although they don’t have any teeth, Giant Anteaters do have an exceptionally long tongue which is 60cm in length. It can flick in and out 150-160 times a minutes and is coated in a very sticky saliva which sticks to insects. 80% of their diet is made up of bugs but the other 20% can be anything from small mammals, birds and fallen fruits.
Giant Anteaters walk on their knuckles which often hides their 4-inch claws. These claws allow them to dig up and rip into termite mounds and rotten logs. They have poor eyesight but have an excellent sense of smell which is used to locate their food along with their very sensitive hearing. Due to their diet, Giant Anteaters can be very slow moving in order to conserve their energy. However, this doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Giant Anteaters have been known to take down Jaguars and Pumas!
Here at Colchester Zoo, we are home to two Giant Anteaters: female, Furai and male, Gilberto. Furai and Gilberto successfully bred in 2007, 2009 and 2012 but due to their age they are no longer breeding. Naturally Anteaters are solitary animals and would only come together out in the wild to breed. However, our pair have become very fond of each other and now live as companions for one another. They are fairly easy to tell apart as Furai is a lot whiter in colour and has a narrower head, whereas Gilberto has much darker fur.
Gilberto is very inquisitive and will interact with any type of enrichment. He is also very active so if you ever see one of our Anteaters up and about, it is most likely to be him! Furai enjoys her sleep and can be very stubborn at times. She can be quite fussy with enrichment but does like to receive affection from the Animal Care Team. Our pair do have one thing in common – they really love their baths!
SOUTHERN TAMANDUA (Tamandua tetradactyla)
Tamanduas are found throughout South America, from Venezuela to northern Argentina. An adaptable species, Southern Tamanduas live in forests and savannas but are most commonly found in rainforests and mangroves. Just like the Giant Anteater, Tamanduas mostly eat ants and termites but are also known to feed on honey and soft fruits. They use their forelimbs and claws to dig into mounds and nests and then use their elongated snout and sticky tongue to collect the insects living inside. A Tamandua’s tongue can be up to 40cm in length while their mouth is about the width of a pencil eraser.
Southern Tamanduas have a short dense fur and have bold dark markings over their shoulders and back. The underside of their tails are fur-less which allows them to grip on to branches more securely as they move through the trees. Local people often call Southern Tamanduas the ‘stinkers of the forest’ as they leave scent trails to mark their territory. It is often believed that Tamanduas are unable to gallop, however, our family like to prove this theory wrong.
Here at Colchester Zoo, we are home to three Southern Tamanduas: 9-year-old male, Oreo; 7-year-old female, Ruth; and 11-month-old male, Toby. Our family of Tamanduas can often be seen play wrestling with one another and enjoy snuggling up together on top of their next box.
Oreo enjoys a relaxed and slow-paced life at his home at Worlds Apart. He will often get up for some food and a quick climb, before heading back to bed. Ruth can be very cheeky and and is always interested in the Animal Care Team, keeping on eye on them as they work. Toby was born on the 27th December 2022 so will be celebrating his first birthday very soon! He takes after his mum, Ruth, and can be very mischievous. He can also often be seen play wrestling with his dad, Oreo.