STATUS IN THE WILD: Vulnerable
RANGE: Northern part of South America and Central America
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
The giant anteater is the largest species of anteater. They have a body length of about three and a half feet with a tail that measures about thirty inches in length. They can weigh forty to one hundred forty pounds. They have a small face with a long tubular snout. Giant anteaters have a tongue that is over two feet long and is covered in sticky saliva that helps to catch prey. Their bodies are covered in a long coarse grey and brown fur. They have large strong claws on their front feet that measure four inches in length. Giant anteaters walk on their knuckles to protect their claws from wear. Due to their poor eyesight and hearing, they rely heavily on their keen sense of smell in daily activities.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Giant anteaters are generally solitary animals and can live an average of fourteen years in the wild. They are not considered aggressive but can be quite fierce when cornered. The giant anteater can spend up to fifteen hours a day asleep, but most of their day is spent foraging for food. They can consume up to 30,000 insects daily. They will dig and claw into the ground, old tree stumps, and ant piles looking for food.
Giant anteaters are able to reproduce about every nine months. They typically give birth to one offspring at a time after a gestation period of approximately 190 days. Young are born while the mother is standing. After birth, a young anteater will immediately climb onto its mother’s back. When on its mother’s back, their stripes align to form a camouflage.
The giant anteater’s range extends from the southern tip of Mexico to Uruguay and northwestern Argentina. The highest densities are found in South America.
Giant anteaters inhabit grassland savannas, deciduous woodlands, and rainforests.
Giant anteaters have been known to consume predominately ants and termites living in ant/termite hills or dead trees. They will sometimes feed on soft-bellied grubs.