Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo have recruited a special teddy-bear to take on the role of surrogate mum to its newest arrival; a tiny baby anteater.
The one-month-old giant anteater, was born on December 28 2016 weighing just 1.2kg, and needed a helping hand from ZSL London Zoo’s keeper team when they realised that first-time mum Inca was unable to care for her infant.
Nicknamed Beanie by her keepers, the young grey and black female already has impressive curved claws, which will grow up to four inches in length and are used to dig around in the ground to find tasty ants and termites.
Young anteaters get around by clinging to their mother’s backs, so the newborn has been keeping a firm grip on zookeeper Amy’s shoulder - before going to sleep cuddling her giant teddy bear.
Zookeeper Amy said: “ZSL London Zoo is home to a group of giant anteaters, male Bonito and his female mates, Inca and Sauna. We were delighted when we discovered Inca was pregnant; but unfortunately she rejected the infant so we’ve stepped in to help until the baby is big enough to go back in with her parents.
“Hand-rearing an animal is an amazing privilege, but it’s hard work too; we’ve been bottle-feeding Beanie every two to three hours with special replacement milk and making sure she’s kept warm at night with a temperature-controlled incubator.
“Giant anteaters are an incredible species, they’re unique to look at and their iconic snouts are perfectly designed to sniff out their food. While they’ve got no teeth, their claws are the perfect tools for digging an opening into ants’ nests and Beanie has been practising her digging skills on her teddy bear, or even sometimes my shoulder!
“We’re very pleased with how well Beanie is developing – at 1.6kg she’s gained about half a kilo in a month, and is the ideal weight for her age. She’s a very strong youngster with a sweet personality; she loves to burrow her long snout into my neck for a cuddle!”
Although Beanie may be small now, eventually she’ll grow to be around 7ft in length and weigh as much as 45kg - in the meantime, Amy has been keeping detailed records on everything the infant does, from eating and sleeping to even her toilet habits.
Though she’ll continue to be hand-fed until she’s around six-months-old, the stripy baby will soon be introduced to the rest of the giant anteater family at ZSL London Zoo, where keepers hope that more experienced female Sauna will take over other mothering duties, such as carrying Beanie around and socialising her, so she can grow up part of the group.