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Giant anteaters eat mostly ants and termites but they are also known to eat ant eggs and cocoons, beetle larvae and the occasional fruit that has fallen to the ground.
They do not have any teeth, instead they have a long specialized tongue that is covered in small spines and coated with thick and sticky saliva. They use this long tongue to eat as many as 30,000 ants and termites a day!
These animals are found in central to South America in various habitats, including savannah, grasslands, swampy areas and humid forests.
Giant anteaters are solitary animals, spending much of their time alone, except if females have young or it is mating season, which is typically from March- May in the wild. These animals are born with sharp claws which help them to hold onto the mother’s back; they will feed from their mother for about 6 months and can be carried around for up to a year. Young giant anteaters have been known to stay with their mother for up to 2 years. These animals are able to breed and have their own young from 2- 3 years old.
The main predators of giant anteaters are pumas and jaguars.
When giant anteaters are threatened by a predator, they will roar and rear up onto their hind legs, and slash out with their strong front legs and sharp 10cm claws; they have been known to fight off both pumas and jaguars!
The number of giant anteaters is decreasing in Central America which is mainly due to habitat destruction. Their natural habitat is threatened by increasing demand in land for agriculture, as well as fires that are created by both natural and man-made causes.
Giant anteaters are protected by law in the majority of areas that they are found within. They are also protected under Appendix II of CITES (Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species) which means that any exports of these animals require permits.
Size Body length: 100-120cm. Tail length: 70-90cm
Weight 18-64 kg; males tend to be heavier than females
Gestation 6 months
Life span up to14 years in the wild, up to 20 years in captivity
To protect the huge claws on their front feet, giant anteaters will fold them up into their palms and will walk on their knuckles.
Their tongue can be up to 61cm long and 1-1.5cm wide. They can even move their tongue up to 150 times per minute!
Giant anteaters cannot produce their own stomach acid, instead they use the formic acid made from the ants they eat to help with digestion.
The sense of smell of a giant anteater is 40 times more powerful than humans.
Even though giant anteaters are able to climb trees, they rarely do.