Giant Anteater

A myopic wanderer of the savannahs of South America, the giant anteater, myrmecophaga tridactyla, is the largest species of anteater.  It leads a mostly solitary and nocturnal existence but it can be quite easy to see given the right location, particularly in early morning when they return from an evening’s foraging.

Adults can reach a length of around 2 metres (including tail) and weigh up to 65 kg.  Normally producing one offspring, young anteaters can take up to two years to gain independence from their mothers and spend the first part of their lives clinging to their mother’s back.   Existing almost entirely on a diet of ants and termites, giant anteaters use a keen sense of smell to find there prey and can eat up to 30,000 insects a day with the help of a long sticky tongue.

Although they can be found in forests stretching as far north as Central America, giant anteaters are most commonly found in the savannahs of South America particularly in the large termite fields of southern Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

They have very poor hearing and eyesight so can be easily approached from down wind.  However, if cornered, adults can rear up on their hind legs and strike out with their claws with surprising speed. They can also “bear hug” potential attackers that get too close.  Strong enough to break apart cement-hard termite mounds, they can defend themselves admirably against jaguars and pumas and have killed humans in the past.  

Where to watch giant anteaters:

Although they are fairly capable swimmers, giant anteaters prefer drier savannah areas such as the southern-most extremities of the Brazilian Pantanal.  Barranco Alto and the Caiman Ecological Refuge are good options here.  They can also be quite commonly seen during the drive between Campo Grande and Bonito in southern Brazil - keep a look-out whenever you see large fields of termite mounds, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon.  Other options include Karanambu Ranch in Guyana.