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The giant anteaters at Edinburgh Zoo have had a baby, and visitors to the zoo have been fascinated with the strange looking animals. The baby anteater is three months old now and is quite independent but he will be carried around for another month or two on his mother’s back before he is left to fend for himself.
The anteaters come from South America and are a plain living species. They prefer grass lands and tend to eat more termites than ants in the wild. Carnivore keeper Raymond Russell explained:
“In the wild they’re mostly solitary and only come together at breeding times. They have territories so they go up to one termite mound, break it open and start eating the termites.”
Termites have quite a nasty bite, so once the anteater cannot stand to be bitten anymore it will move away from the termite mound and find another one in its territory and start eating from there. The termite mounds regenerate so this ensures that the anteater has a continuous food supply.
At the zoo the ant eaters are fed a specially prepared diet of powdered food mixed with water, and they are given crickets and meal worms regularly. Now and again they have yoghurt as a special treat, and rotten logs are put in the enclosure which the anteaters can rip apart to find grubs and insects.
Raymond is quite excited to have a new youngster at the zoo and he enjoys seeing the fascination of the public when they come to see the anteaters, but he does warn that the unusual-looking animals can be dangerous. He said:
“It’s good to see the public’s reaction when they come in because they’re such an amazing animal and to stand there and watch them with other people is just fantastic.
“They [the anteaters] have got quite a nice character but they are very dangerous animals and can inflict some nasty wounds with their claws; if they can rip open termite mounds they can tear you apart. Once you get to know them though, they do have nice natures and they are characters. We build up a sort of relationship with them.”