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A-Z directory of animals

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Giant anteater

Giant anteater

Myrmecophaga tridactyla


Giant anteaters can barely open their mouths and eat through a long snout with a tiny opening. They have a sticky tongue, up to 50 centimetres (cm) in length, which they use to suck up insects.

The insect diet is not very nutritious so anteaters can spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping and move very slowly to conserve energy.



Diet
A giant anteater eats ants, termites and soft insect larvae and can eat up to 30,000 of these a day.

Size
A giant anteater can be up to two metres in length from its snout to the end of its body. They can weigh up to 55 kilograms.

Location
These anteaters can be found in grassland savannahs, deciduous woodlands and rainforests in South America.

Key to acronyms

EEP = European Endangered Species Programme
CITES = Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
IUCN = International Union for Conservation of Nature
ESB = European Studbook

Conservation status
The IUCN believes that the giant anteater is facing a high risk of extinction.

The species is listed under Appendix II of CITES.

Threats
Habitat destruction and damage from human activity is the principal threat to giant anteaters.
They are also hunted for food, the live animal trade and as pests.

Current population
There is no definitive number of giant anteaters on the wild, but numbers are thought to be declining.

Zoo population
There is an EEP for giant anteaters.

There are around 200 anteaters living in zoos around the world.