Two babies in one year might be a handful for most mothers, but ZSL London Zoo’s tamandua Ria has had plenty of help with her latest offspring - because her firstborn Poco has literally been sharing the load.
Since the adorable pup’s birth last month, the proud big brother has been carefully carrying his new sibling around their Rainforest Life home – with the pair now so close that keepers have even named the little one after him, in honour of their brotherly love.
“Ria must have fallen pregnant just weeks after giving birth to Poco,” says ZSL keeper Steve Goodwin, who discovered seven-month-old Poco bonding with the new baby immediately after the birth.
“We suspected Ria was pregnant again, so we were keeping a close eye on her,” explains Steve. “When I peered into their nestbox that morning I saw the whole family nestled together, with the newborn already snuggling into the soft fur on Poco’s back – he’s clearly taken his big brother duties very seriously, as they’ve been inseparable ever since.”
The heartwarming relationship between the tamandua twosome is one that keepers are closely monitoring, so that information about the unusual bond can be shared with other zoos around the world.
“Not a lot is known about tamandua group dynamics in the wild, as the species are nocturnal and spend most of their lives high up in the tree canopy of their rainforest homes.
“Tamanduas are usually seen as solitary animals, with the females carrying their offspring on their backs for the first three months of their life, so Poco’s close relationship with one-month-old Paco is definitely something we can all learn from.”
While Ria has definitely had a little help this time around, she remains a devoted mum to both of her youngsters: “If Paco ever begins to cry on Poco’s back, she doesn’t just take the little one off him to soothe them: she carries them both until he settles down, which means Paco is on Poco, who is on mum. The tower of tamanduas is quite a sight!”
Part of the anteater family, tamanduas (Tamandua tetradactyla) are native to South America and are impressive climbers. Holding on to mum - and big brother Poco - will enable the infant to build up the valuable muscles needed to climb through the tree-top branches of London’s only living rainforest, which they share with two-toed sloths Marilyn, Leander and baby Lento, Emperor tamarins, red titi monkeys and fruit bats.
Keepers won’t know the youngster’s sex until it is scanned by vets, as the baby will stick close to the family until around six-months-old. Boy or girl, the newborn is a valuable addition to its species and once its sex is confirmed, its details will be added to the European Studbook (ESB), part of a coordinated breeding programme for tamanduas.