Belfast Zoo
Show Menu
Show Search

Giant anteater

Myrmecophaga tridactyla

Giant anteater

As their name suggests, the giant anteater is the largest species of anteater in the world and are found in the grasslands and rainforests of Central and South America.

Its name also hints at one of this unusual animal’s favourite foods. Incredibly, an anteater can devour up to 30,000 ants and termites in a day. Once they find an ant hill, the anteater uses its long claws to rip it open and vacuums up the insects with it long nose and stick tongue (which measures up to 50 centimetres in length)!

Giant anteater pups are born with a full coat of hair and ride around on the mother’s back for the first year. This helps to camouflage the infant against the mother’s coat. It also makes the mother look larger to other predators.

Giant anteaters are considered one of the most threatened mammals in Central America and in Brazil. In some areas of the country where they once roamed, there are now none left.

Belfast Zoo is home to the only giant anteaters in Ireland – Pancho and Kara and their daughter Zira, who was born in June 2016.

Habitat 
Grasslands and rainforest

Diet - Insectivore
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 measure up to two metres in length from snout to the tip of the tail. They can weigh up to 55 kilograms.

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

Conservation status 
The IUCN believes that the giant anteater is facing a very high risk of extinction. The species is listed under Appendix II of CITES.

Threats
Habitat destruction is a major threat to Giant anteaters. They are also hunted for food and the pet trade.

Current population
Numbers of giant anteaters are declining in the wild.

Zoo population
There is an EEP for giant anteaters. There are around 310 anteaters living in zoos around the world.

Key to acronyms

IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature

CITES - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

EEP - European Endangered Species Programme

Related links