As their name suggests, giant anteaters feed primarily on ants (and termites) and can consume up to 30,000 of those insects in a day. However, it would be nearly impossible to supply this in a zoo setting. Instead, our anteaters receive an insectivore grain that’s soaked with water to make a gruel which they can lap out of a PVC tube with their two-foot-long tongue. Our male anteater even gets canned and dry cat food mixed in with his diet! Both of our anteaters also love avocados, bananas, papayas and hard-boiled eggs.
Surprisingly, if wild ants find their diet and get into it, our anteaters will refuse to eat the gruel. Presumably, Florida ants taste differently than the ants and termites that are native to South America. The insects that giant anteaters naturally feed on in the wild are a different species than what is available locally. Termites in South America can build giant mounds that can be over 10 feet tall and 30 feet wide. Some of these mounds have been dated with radioactive testing to be nearly 4,000 years old! The mounds are strong enough that a person would need power tools to break in, but the giant anteater can easily use their powerful forelimbs to tear the mound apart.
These forelimbs also make anteaters surprisingly capable swimmers. Our male anteater loves the water. Once while raining, he was seen rolling on his back under a stream of water that was pouring off the roof. They like the water for more than swimming and playing though. Anteaters and other animals in South America such as capybaras and tapirs will defecate only in the water. In the wild, this helps to hide their scent from predators like jaguars.
You can find our giant anteaters in the River’s Edge exhibits, located in the back of the Range of the Jaguar. You might spot the male in one exhibit and our female in the other exhibit, with their offspring that was born on September 18, 2022. Whoever you find, they might be walking around, investigating new and interesting scents their keepers hide for them, or just sleeping in a corner with their tail covering their face.