Giant anteater baby is being hand-raised after mother rejects him

AnteaterA male giant anteater, born in the Santa Barbara Zoo in California, US, has since then been under the personal care of concerned keepers. The pup will be kept out of public view for at least several months, according to the zoo, which is hoping that with their care, the baby stays healthy and grows normally.

The offspring is the first for the zoo’s adult pair of anteaters, mother Anara and sire Ridley. The newborn anteater was weighed shortly after he was born on the 1st of March, and was then about 1.58 kilograms. The pup gradually put on weight and was 1.84 kilograms on Friday. It has not been named as yet.

Officials at the Santa Barbara Zoo said that though the prognosis of the pup was fairly positive, it was currently guarded by those working on it and added that the pup would not be placed in view for some months.

Sheri Horiszny, the zoo’s director of animal programs said that giant anteater pups like the one born in the zoo, had a mortality rate of 50 percent in the first three months of their life after birth. To add to this issue, she said that the pup in question was not provided with colostrum from the first milk produced by the mother, which would have added to its immune support.

The unnamed pup is being fed with a puppy milk replacer called Esbilac. The keepers initially fed him kitten milk replacer, but on feeding him Esbilac he showed preference for the latter.

The pup’s mother, Anara, is two years old. She originally gave birth to twins, a female pup in addition to the male pup. The female twin, however, did not survive, and the cause of her death has not yet been determined by the zoo. Giving birth to twins is rare among anteaters, but Anara was actually a twin herself and was also hand-raised.

Horiszny said that since Anara was a mother for the first time, she did not want to rear two babies.  She did not allow the male pup to hold on to her or nurse from her. This led the keepers to hand-raise him from the same afternoon of his birth. On the other hand, they saw that the female twin pup was able to cling onto her mother and appeared to be nursing. However, they found her dead four days later.

The keepers then did not want to take the same risk with the male pup by allowing it near its mother, so they have continued to personally rear him since then, which was in his best interest.

The father/sire, Ridley, is six years old and was imported from Germany 6 years ago as part of a cooperative breeding program to bring genetic diversity to animal facilities in North America.

The Santa Barbara Zoo has been able to sufficiently study giant anteaters, because 26 giant anteaters have been born in it since the year 1975. Giant anteaters can grow up to four feet in length, and have powerful claws to destroy insect mounds, as well as long tongues to reach ants, that go up to 24 inches in length. The animals are native to Central and South America, however, habitat destruction, poaching and illegal trade has resulted in a decline by almost 30 percent of its original population. The species has been listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the Union for the Conservation of Nature.