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Anteater, Giant

Giant Anteater at the LA Zoo Photo Credit Jamie Pham

Scientific Name: Mymecophaga tridactyla

Giant anteaters are known best for being big, and eating ants! They have a long, sticky tongue that can extend up to 24 inches, and allows them to slurp up ants and termites, and very long claws to help them dig further for more food. What they are not as known for, is walking on their knuckles! Their claws are so long, that they have the digits of their forefeet flexed, with their claws curled under to keep from digging into the ground.

Portable Blanket

More than looking pretty, the long bushy tail of the giant anteater has another purpose; warmth. The anteater will wrap the tail around its body, which not only provides warmth, but also provides camouflage while it sleeps.

The giant anteater is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and has been continuously reassessed by the IUCN for the past 32 years. The giant anteater is believed to be extinct in Belize, Uruguay, El Salvador and parts of Guatemala. The decline of the species is largely due to deforestation, and loss of habitat in their grassland homes from wildfire. Giant anteaters are also sometimes hunted for meat and leather in some regions.

Grasslands and forests from Guatemala to northern Argentina.

Ants, termites, and beetle larvae are their natural diet, but in the zoo they are fed a diet rich in proteins that consists of a mix of Mazuri insectivore diet, orange, banana, avocado, melaworms, crickets, wax worms, and termites.

Giant anteaters have long bodies, long tails, and long faces. Their bodies are covered in dark to light fur, usually grey across their back, a black band that starts out wide at their throats and chest that gets skinnier towards the tail. Underneath the band, on the stomach and powerful limbs, is usually beige to light brown fur. The tail is long, bushy, and has been called feather-like by many, although there are no feathers on it.

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