A giant baby anteater born with a ghostly white stripe has made its public debut at ZSL London Zoo – just in time for Halloween.
The six-week-old giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), was born overnight during last month’s storm Aileen, with zookeepers making the wonderful discovery the following morning. Now, mum Inca has taken her newborn outside for the first time, introducing the youngster to its home next to the Zoo’s giraffes.
ZSL (Zoological Society of London) London Zookeeper, Amy Heath said: “I was delighted to see a healthy pup snuggled up to mum Inca, having a quiet feed in the cosy indoor den one morning.
“The tiny youngster immediately climbed up onto mum Inca’s back after finishing its first breakfast – settling into the perfect position to be carried around.
“The first thing I noticed was the rare white markings down the baby’s back, which look like a lightning strike: pups usually have grey markings so this baby is definitely special. It’s an amazing coincidence that a baby born during such a dark and stormy night has got such unique colourings to mark the occasion.”
Juvenile anteater 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 distinguishable matching patterns align to create one continuous stripe, allowing the young pup to avoid the eyes of predators while on their mum’s backs.
Inspired by mum Inca’s birth place, Madrid Zoo, ZSL London Zoo keepers will soon be giving the unsexed youngster a Spanish name: Raya meaning ‘stripe’ if it’s a girl, or Trueno, meaning ‘storm’ if it’s a boy. Keepers will find out the pup’s sex at its first vet check at around three-months-old.
The new arrival may be small now – weighing in at around a kilo - but the pup will grow quickly into a full sized adult reaching approximately 7ft in length and weigh as much as 45kg. In the meantime the infant will happily hitch a ride to stay close to mum, letting her do all the work while sleeping up to 15 hours a day.
Keeper Amy Health continued, “We’re very pleased with how well our newest addition to the giant anteater family is developing – we can see the pup is feeding well and gaining weight - putting on between 200-500g a week so these youngsters are fast growers.”
The stripy baby will soon be introduced to the rest of the giant anteater family at ZSL London Zoo, learning the ropes from big sister Beanie - born to same parents Inca and Bonito earlier this year.
Visitors can enjoy a whole host of Halloween themed activities at ZSL London Zoo this October half-term.