The pair came to Brookfield Zoo during 2014 in the hopes that a baby would be produced. In preparation a keeper travelled to Nashville Zoo where the staff is well versed in the care and management of giant anteaters. Here he learnt how to manage the animals diet, monitor a pup’s developmental progress and train the female to accept ultrasounds.
These ultrasounds were carried out once a week so that keepers could monitor the foetus and determine when the pup would be born.
“The collaborative efforts and sharing of information among Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) member institutions benefits all the species we care for in the zoo profession,” said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal programs for the Brookfield Zoo. “Among our staff here at Brookfield Zoo, we have experts on particular species, and it is valuable to be able to exchange knowledge and husbandry practices among zoos to ensure we are providing the best medical, environmental, and nutritional needs for the animals in our care.”
Tulum’s baby was born with a full coat of hair. Currently it is spending most of its time on mum’s back. It will continue hitching a ride till it is about four months old when it will start to walk alongside her. When they sleep mum’s bushy 70-90cm (28-35in) long tail is used to cover over the baby.
Giant anteaters used their 2ft long tongue to suck up thousands of ants and termites a day as they wander through their South American forest home.
Here this species is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their numbers have dropped as low as 5,000 due to habitat loss, hunting for meat and later along with being killed in crashes and wildfires. Luckily in the Argentinian province of Corrientes a reintroduction project is taking place to increase their numbers.
In captivity a Species Survival Plan is being co-ordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to keep the captive population genetically diverse and demographically stable. 55 North American Zoos provide a home for 100 giant anteaters as part of the program.
Photo Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society