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Following a captive-breeding programme, a rare giant anteater has been born at Longleat Safari Park.
The South American mammal is only the third of its kind to be born in Wiltshire and is a species currently listed as ‘vulnerable’, making its arrival particularly welcome. The total population declined by 30 per cent between 2000 and 2010, which saw giant anteaters added to the Red List of Threatened Species, as compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The baby anteater has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Julie-Poppet’ by keepers at Longleat and was born to parents who live at the safari park. Mother Maroni was born in France and father Bonito was born in Germany, with both arriving at the park five years ago as part of a European Breeding Programme.
The successful birth of ‘Julie-Poppet’ is fantastic, as aside from giant anteaters being increasingly under threat in the wild, it also means that those staying in luxury cottages in Wiltshire can experience these wonderful creatures too.
With habitats that are usually in tropical and deciduous forests, it is rather difficult to see them in the wild, especially as they are incredibly camouflaged. In fact, the baby anteater will be carried on her mother’s back for the first six months, and will align itself to the pattern of her fur, in order to hide from potential predators. It’s an incredibly effective method, with the young anteater almost becoming invisible to the naked eye.
So far, mother and baby have a great relationship, as expected in the early stages. ‘Julie-Poppet’ feeds by taking milk from underneath the mother anteater and rarely lets go of the protective parent.
Giant anteaters can grow to over two metres in length, with tongues that can extend to more than 60cm. This enables them to get into ant and termite mounds, with the mammals eating up to 30,000 insects in one day, making their name incredibly apt.
Image Credit: Meg Rutherford (Flickr.com)