Keepers are celebrating the Christmas arrival of a baby tamandua at ZSL London Zoo, after third-time parents Ria and Tobi welcomed their latest pup on Friday 13 December.
While the rest of the country counted down to Christmas, keepers have been counting down to the festive birth, after meticulously keeping track of Ria’s 150-day pregnancy through monthly ultrasounds.
ZSL keeper Steve Goodwin said: “We’ve all been waiting excitedly for the baby’s arrival so when Ria vanished into her nest box on Thursday evening, we had our fingers firmly crossed that the time had come.
“We came in early the next morning to check on her progress and were delighted to see a tiny baby wriggling on her back – we decided to name the newborn Star in honour of the festive season.”
Ria has kept the baby close to her since the evening birth, tucking the youngster away in her nest for a few days before taking the little one on afternoon explorations around their Rainforest Life home.
Juvenile tamanduas (Tamandua tetradactyla) spend the first three months clinging to their mother’s backs, sliding down to feed before pulling themselves back up to nestle into mum’s fur: they have fantastic camouflage as their matching patterns align to create one continuous stripe, allowing the young pup to avoid the eyes of predators in the wild.
Keepers captured the baby’s famously long tongue on film just days after the birth, when Star yawned during her first trip outside: closely related to giant anteaters, tamandua tongues can grow up to 40 cm in length and are perfect for sucking up their favourite food - ants and termites.
Steve added: “We couldn’t be more excited to have a Christmas birth, and Ria is such an experienced mum that she’s venturing out with the baby already – they’re staying close to the tree tops, so Star is exactly where she should be at this time of year!”
Visitors will be able to spot the new baby this Christmas in London’s only living rainforest - an indoor walkthrough heated to 27 degrees, which the tamanduas share with two-toed sloths Marilyn, Leander and baby Elio, Emperor tamarins, red titi monkeys and fruit bats.
Open every day apart from Christmas Day, enjoy a magical day out at ZSL London Zoo this December – families can even walk off Christmas lunch amongst the animals on Boxing Day.