Giant anteaters newest stars at Brights Zoo

Visitors have been getting to know Brights Zoo’s newest additions for the past week — a pair of giant anteaters.

Sid and Inara arrived from a zoo in Staten Island, New York, about a month ago.

Because the giant anteater is native to South America, Lead Keeper Maggie Trunack said the staff waited for warm weather before introducing the pair to the public. The warm spring weather collaborated well with local spring break schedules, and plenty of onlookers were on hand to visit the anteaters on their first week out of their barn.

Anteater-6In addition to piles of paperwork, the staff had to ready the enclosure for the pair’s arrival.

A large pond is required: anteaters use ponds as a bathroom in the wild. In addition to the famous long snout and tongue, the anteaters are also equipped with claws for climbing, so the enclosure was designed with a slanted top to keep them from escaping.

“We put in a lot of work to make sure the exhibit was good enough for these guys to come out and roam around and the public can still see them,” Trunack said.

True to their name, anteaters love eating ants, termites and other insects — and the occasional yogurt treat — but staff members also give them food puzzles every once in a while to have them work for their food like they would in the wild.

Perhaps the anteater’s most unique feature is the long snout and 18- to 20-inch tongue they use to pull insects out of the ground to eat — the anteater has no teeth. The tongue connects to the animal’s sternum, and the muscles that govern the tongue connect back to the animal’s pelvis.

The anteater also has an acute sense of smell that’s about 40 times better than a human’s.

Anteater-1Sid and Inara are a breeding pair, and while the staff aren’t pressuring them to breed, they are equipped in case it happens. The versatile barn that houses the two has a bed and pool for each one, but the staff are ready to make accommodations in case they have a third anteater anytime soon.

In addition to the giant anteaters, the zoo also has some lesser anteaters, which as the name would imply are similar to their giant cousins except for their size. Because they’re smaller, the staff has to wait for more consecutive warm days to display the lesser anteaters, Trunack said.

Trunack said zoo guests have received the anteaters with excitement and curiosity since their announcement. Some had never seen an anteater before, and so far, Brights Zoo is the only zoo in the state that has anteaters on display to the public.

“Some people are getting to experience them pretty up close, and that’s great because one of our biggest things here is education, and we want people to learn,” she said. “So far they’ve been a big hit.”

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