May 17, 2013
A veritable anteater mystery is unfolding in Greenwich, Connecticut. A story in today's Greenwich Time recounts the birth of a new giant anteater who was completely unexpected by the host zoo's caretakers. Here's the scoop: The new pup's mother, Armani, gave birth to a young female pup last August. Since male giant anteaters are known to sometimes kill their own offspring, the pup's father, Alf, was immediately separated from Armani and her baby. Months later, Armani and Alf were reunited. But last month, zookeepers at the LEO Zoological Conservation Center were surprised one morning to find Armani with yet another newborn pup, this time a male, in the anteater enclosure.
Giant anteaters don't "show" their pregnancy very much, and the timing was such that the birth seemed to defy logic: Armani had not, to anyone's knowledge, been anywhere near Alf, her male companion, in October, when the new baby must have been conceived. (The gestational period for giant anteaters is six months.)
The news media has been having a field day with the idea that this might have been an "immaculate conception." Of course, there must be some other explanation, but what could it be?
Marcella Leone, founder and director of the LEO Conservation Center, has suggested it might have been a rare case of delayed implantation, a situation in which a fertilized egg doesn't immediately begin normal division and implantation in a mother's uterus. If this were the case, Alf would have fertilized two of Armani's eggs at the same time, with one developing during the normal timeline to produce the female pup last August, and the other taking a while to develop into the newer male pup.
Anteater experts have so far reacted to this hypothesis with some skepticism.
"I am extremely dubious about the delayed implantation theory, especially with a birth in the middle of the timeline," says Marie Magnuson, an anteater keeper at the National Zoo in Washington DC. Magnuson who has overseen the birth of three giant anteaters.
I've got to think it's also possible that someone at the conservation center accidentally brought the pair together before they were supposed to, and simply never said anything about it. Males and females don't take long to mate, so it could have happened pretty quickly.
We may never know the truth behind this giant anteater mystery. But how wonderful that there are now two pups thriving in southwestern Connecticut! Here's wishing them both long, healthy lives. •>~
Photo of mating anteaters courtesy of Tracey Barnes
February 18, 2013
How do you examine a giant anteater? Carefully. As noted previously on The Online Anteater, these animals are docile creatures, but they must be handled with utmost caution due to their imposing, razor-sharp claws. Now, the Zoological Society of London has published a revealing blog post detailing the process by which veterinarians go about the delicate task of checking an anteater's vitals while keeping everyone in the room safe. In particular, they describe a check-up for aging London Zoo resident Bonito, including bloodwork, an x-ray, and an abdominal ultrasound. I'd never seen such a setup before, but it makes a lot of sense that they would wrap Bonito's paws so tightly before subjecting him to the exam! Thanks to the ZSL for the insight into this aspect of giant anteater care. •>~
November 24, 2012
November 9, 2012
October 31, 2012
You may remember us raving last year about a sublime giant anteater costume. Well, here are two more excellent Halloween anteaters, one by Brett Manning on Flickr and the other by noted baby photographer Tom Arma. Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone! •>~
October 22, 2012
Giant anteaters rarely make it into song, but our furry long-nosed friends are the subject of a sweet new tune from children's singer-songwriter Alison Faith Levy. The number, "Baby Anteater," is one of 11 tracks on her 2012 release, World of Wonder. Other songs on the album include "Eye of the Tornado" and "I had a Rooster," but there's no secret as to which is tops among the lot... It goes:
"Riding around on your mama’s back
She’s running around and you just sleep right though
Clutched on tight, you’re such a funny sight!"
A California native, Levy is a well-heeled public performer who also teaches "Tot Rock Classes" in the Bay Area. Giant anteaters, she tells me, are "a big fave with my little kid fans...they put their arms out like snouts and go around on the floor when I play, pretending to pick up ants!" That sounds like the anteater boogie to me! •>~
September 29, 2012
Some of you may know that our National Zoo, run by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has been home to a number of giant anteaters over the years (see, for example, A Visit to D.C.). What may surprise you, however, is that the Smithsonian also supports the study of animal behaviors in the wild! To wit, the giant anteater photo above was captured in a Peruvian forest as part of a research project that used a camera trap—a popular method for observing animals in their natural habitats.
So what the heck is a camera trap? Here's how it works: Scientists set up cameras in remote places where wild animals are thought to roam, and whenever the camera senses motion or body heat, it snaps a series of pictures! The main benefit to science of such a system is that biologists don't have to waste time sitting out in the jungle or in an open field waiting for an animal to come along. Plus, since the camera is an inanimate object, animals are much more likely to approach!
If you're curious to learn more about the Smithsonian's camera trap programs, visit their WILD site, which explains how it's done in a bit more detail. You can also check out some of the wild animals they've seen this way, from birds to bears to leopards to (of course) anteaters. •>~
Update: Don't miss these two fantastic videos of a giant anteaters doing their thing in the woods. The first was caught with a camera trap some 500 meters from the Amazon Rainforest Conservation Center Lodge in Las Piedras, Peru. The anteater's backside looks pretty wet...wonder if he/she was just coming in from a swim? The second provides an insightful look at an anteater wallowing directly in a water hole.