Gilberto says thanks!
Saturday 19 June 2004
Our anteaters are very happy thanks to our welly appeal
When we asked for your cast-off Wellington boots it wasn't because we wanted to splash in the puddles ourselves... it was part of an extensive behavioural enrichment programme for our anteaters!
Zoo keepers fill these wellies with live food such as crickets and meal worms to encourage the anteaters to search for their next meal. This is just one enrichment activity that London Zoo has in place to encourage these fascinating animals to demonstrate natural behaviour.
Giant anteaters have relatively poor hearing and vision, but they have an incredible sense of smell (40 times more sensitive than humans do). Amanda Ferguson, anteater keeper said, 'We cut small holes in the boots, put in live food and hang them from the ceiling on a rope. The anteaters explore all the holes, pulling the boots down and ripping them apart. Wellington boots are made from soft rubber, which makes them perfect for anteaters, and won't harm them with bits of material or thread which can get wrapped around their tongues. Of course, each wellington has its own unique smell - and olfactory stimulation is also good for anteaters!'
Mother and father Sauna and Bonito arrived at London Zoo in 1998 and 1999 respectively and live by B.U.G.S!, London Zoo's biodiversity centre in a specially designed anteater enclosure which even has its own indoor pool. In June 2003 they had their third offspring; a male, who has since been named after Gilberto, the Arsenal football player. The family have access to two large grassy paddocks which they share with a group of rheas (a South American flightless bird).
Giant anteaters are found in Central and South America ranging from Southern Belize to Northern Argentina. They live in a variety of different habitats such as savannah, grasslands, swampy areas and humid forests.
An adult giant anteater is over a metre long (excluding a large, bushy tail which can be as long again) stands at about 0.6 metres and weighs approximately 50 kg.
As their name implies, giant anteaters are adapted to feeding on invertebrates such as ants and termites. They seek out their prey with one of the longest tongues (up to 61 cms) in the animal kingdom, which is covered in sticky mucus and they tear open termite mounds, earth and rotten logs with their powerful forelegs, tipped with formidable claws. They have no teeth and their very muscular stomach helps to grind their food.
In captivity they are fed a substitute diet which consists of a gruel made up of porridge oats, dog biscuits, fruit, lean mince beef, honey and shrimp which is purified in a Robotcoupe blender. They also get live food in the form of waxworm larvae, mealworms and crickets. They favourite treats are avocado, mango, orange and yoghurt.
Giant anteaters have a lower body temperature than most mammals (32-34 degrees centigrade) and are 'heterothermic', which means their body temperature, although higher than that of the environment, fluctuates with air temperature.