Births of Giant Anteaters in zoos are very rare throughout the world. In the last 12 months there have only been 20 births registered within zoos. The clumsy little Giant Anteater, born in the Magdeburg Zoo on the 8th February 2021 can be therefore considered a zoological rarity. The Giant Anteater species has been part of the zoo’s animal collection since 2001. The first breeding success of this endangered species at the Magdeburger Zoo was in 2005. The birth of this recent Giant Anteater is the fifth offspring by the breeding pair “Estrella” and “Kaspar”. If you want to keep updated on the development of the new born, then read along in the diary of the little Giant Anteater.
Diary of the giant anteater
22. February 2021
It has now been two weeks since I was born at the Magdeburg Zoo. What an exciting day it was! Seeing as I am rather special being a rarity in zoos, the zookeepers were thrilled when they discovered me lying next to my mother Estrella. For your information, I belong to the Giant Anteater species, though I must admit I’m still pretty small. Taking care of my species and breeding within zoos is not exactly easy. That’s why my keepers were overjoyed when I was born and are hoping that I’ll keep growing and getting stronger each day. To let my mother and I get some rest, the keepers have blocked the view into our enclosure which means I have to be patient until I get to see my first visitors.
23. February 2021
I’m so proud of myself! Already I’m able to climb onto my mum’s back as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. At the beginning it didn’t quite look as easy, I can tell you. My mum’s shoulder height is about half a meter and I just couldn’t get up there. I was constantly trying to climb up on her front legs but it took me three days to realise that I had to use her back legs as a ladder. Well that certainly made it a lot easier for me. It’s very important for little Giant Anteaters to sit on their mother’s backs, especially when they are in the wild. This way our mums can take us with them and we are perfectly disguised thanks to our camouflage. When my mum goes out looking for food, she already sometimes leaves me behind on my own BUT not with me! I always try to crawl after her as fast as I can.
24. February 2021
Today I was closely watching my mum eat. You won’t believe how long her tongue is! It measures 60 centimeters. I wonder if my tongue is ever going to be as long as hers when I’m fully grown. She uses her tongue to lick some kind of insectivore mash. It consists of 30 parts and is a great replacement for the 35.000 ants an adult Giant Anteater feeds on daily in the wild. This sounds like a lot, but it’s only actually about 180 grams of food in total. I really quite liked the smell of this mash so I went to have a closer look. Somehow I managed to fall right into it and my mum had quite a hard time licking me clean again afterwards … well maybe it wasn’t so hard after all.
25. February 2021
I haven’t managed to meet my dad Kasper yet, because Giant Anteaters are known to live on their own. But I get to spend plenty of time with my mum Estrella as long as I’m still small. She really takes good care of me. Seeing as it’s too cold to go outside at the moment, we stay inside and cuddle up together. When I’m asleep, she covers me with her big, bushy tail to keep me warm. To make sure I get enough fresh air, she sometimes lifts her tail and airs my sleeping spot between her front legs and her belly. If I’m not happy about something, then I let her know by giving out a loud cry! This always brings her running to me to see what’s wrong.
26. February 2021
Today I was weighed for the third time and I have already gained quite a lot of weight. Once a week I get weighed. On my fourth day I weighed exactly 1200 g, in the second week I put on 50 g and today I weigh a total of 1320 g. My keepers also measured my length and I certainly didn’t make it easy for them to measure how big I am as I kept moving my nose. But in the end, they managed and now they know that I measure 60cm from the tip of my nose to the end of my tail. I still have to grow quite a bit though. An adult Giant Anteater weighs about 30 to 35 kilogramms and is about 2,5 meters long. The tail makes up about half of his whole body length and the long skull measures about 20 cm of it.
27. February 2021
I’m not even 3 weeks old yet, but can you imagine, anteaters have been on the earth for over 54 million years! This is the time when anteaters split from their close relatives the sloths. Together we represent the order of the Pilosa, which comes from the latin word “hairy”. In German our name translates to “having only a few teeth”, which is because anteaters don’t have any teeth at all, and sloths only have 18 teeth. Anteaters and sloths are also related to armadillos. The three of us belong to the superorder of the Xenarthra. Though our appearance couldn’t be more different, we still share some attributes like the extra joints on our vertebrae.
28. February 2021
Lying next to my mum, looking at her long, sharp claws could really frighten someone. She has claws on all five toes of her front paws, but only the central three are sickle-shaped and about 15 centimeters long. When she walks, she folds her claws under her paws out of the way and walks on her knuckles, similar to a chimpanzee. This way they also don’t get blunt, which is important especially for anteaters in the wild. In the wild, we particularly need our claws to defend ourselves, but most importantly to forage. We tear open the termite nests by reaching into a small hole with our claws and then we pull it back with our strong front legs, which is called the “hook-and-pull-method”. After that, we are ready to eat!
1. March 2021
Can you imagine, everybody wants to know if I’m a boy or girl -the zookeepers, the press and my biggest fans the visitors. But it’s not too easy to determine a giant anteater’s sex, especially in my young age. So I’ll let them wait a bit more… though it would be nice to get a name one day.