Baby Giant Anteater makes its debut at Cotswold Wildlife Park

Mother and child: after birth, baby anteaters spend a further 6 months clinging to the back of their

Mother and child: after birth, baby anteaters spend a further 6 months clinging to the back of their mothers / Photo: Jade Price (Cotswold Wildlife Park) - Credit: Archant

Cotswold Wildlife Park has announce the birth of the only Giant Anteater baby to have ever been born at the Park. These are the first pictures of the as-yet-unnamed pup. It’s still early days, but both mother and baby are healthy and can be seen in their enclosure next to the Children’s Farmyard.

The baby is one of only 5000 Giant Anteaters alive today. The species is classified as Vulnerable ac

The baby is one of only 5000 Giant Anteaters alive today. The species is classified as Vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species / Photo: Jade Price (Cotswold Wildlife Park) - Credit: Archant

The pup was born on February 16 and is a result of the successful pairing of first-time parents Zorro and Zeta. They both arrived at the Burford collection in 2010.

The new arrival, clinging to its mother / Photo: Jade Price (Cotswold Wildlife Park)

The new arrival, clinging to its mother / Photo: Jade Price (Cotswold Wildlife Park) - Credit: Archant

Giant Anteater tongues can protrude more than 2 feet (60 cm) to capture prey / Photo: Jade Price (C

Giant Anteater tongues can protrude more than 2 feet (60 cm) to capture prey / Photo: Jade Price (Cotswold Wildlife Park) - Credit: Archant

Zeta is proving to be a good mother, albeit a shy one; anteaters are generally solitary creatures. Once a year, the female gives birth to a single pup. Gestation length is around 6 months, and the mother then carries her offspring on her back for a further 6 months.

Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jamie Craig, commented: “It is always exciting for us to breed a species for the first time, and especially so in this case as the anteaters are such interesting creatures. The baby is a miniature version of the adults and is already exploring from the safety of its mother’s back, where it clings tenaciously with its already powerful claws.”

Giant Anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) are the largest of the four Anteater species and boast one of the most fascinating tongues in the animal kingdom. They are edentate animals - they have no teeth. Their diet in the wild mainly consists of ants, termites and beetle larvae; the nests are ripped open with the claws and the tongue acts as animated fly-paper. These tongues can protrude more than 2 feet (60 cm) to capture prey, but ants possess a painful sting when attacked so anteaters have to eat quickly. They do so by flicking their tongue up to 160 times per minute to avoid being stung. An Anteater may spend only a minute feasting on each mound, and they never destroy a nest, preferring to return and feed again in the future.

Giant Anteaters are classified as Vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Main threats to their survival are hunting and habitat destruction. Scientists estimate that there are only 5,000 individuals left in the wild.

Additional information:

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• Anteaters are also known as the ‘Ant Bear’ and are found in Central and South America.

• The four different species vary greatly in size - the smallest being the Silky Anteater (the size of a Squirrel).

• The Giant Anteater is by far the largest and can reach 7 feet (2.1 meters) in length.

• If cornered, an Anteater can rear up on its hind legs, using the tail for balance, and lash out with dangerous claws and has been known to fight off even a Puma or Jaguar.

• During the Spanish colonization of the Americas, Giant Anteaters were one of many native fauna taken to Europe for display in zoos. At first Europeans believed all Anteaters were female and mated with their noses, a misconception corrected by naturalist Félix de Azara.

• Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was a great fan of Anteaters. He was photographed in Paris taking his pet Anteater for a walk. He was fascinated by the unusual looking creatures and featured them in a series of sketches.

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Cotswold Wildlife Park opens its doors at 10am every day, with last admission at 4.30pm

(Excludes Christmas Day. Last admission is at 3.30pm during winter months)

For more information, visit: www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk

Or follow on twitter: @cotswildtweets

Or visit their Facebook: www.facebook.com/cotswoldwildlifepark

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