Rare twins born to giant anteaters at SB Zoo

Name the Pups

The giant anteaters pups, like many of the animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo, can be named by making a donation to the zoo. By naming the pups, sponsors also support the AZA giant anteater cooperative breeding program, and the goal of increased genetic diversity in North American zoos. 

Call the zoo’s Development Department for details at 962-5339 or visit www.sbzoo.org.


Staff Report

In a rare occurrence, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s giant anteater, Anara, has given birth to twins. Two female pups were born overnight and discovered by keepers on Monday, Nov. 21.

Photo contributed
In a rare occurrence, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s giant anteater, Anara, gave birth to twins.

Twins are unusual in this species, and the likelihood for survival of both pups, if left with the mother, is extremely low.

“We monitored the newborn pups and allowed them both to stay with their mother for as long as possible,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s director of animal care and health. “We had several plans to implement depending on how they progressed. Although Anara did an amazing job in the first few days, we were starting to see a significant weight discrepancy between the pups. That indicated it was time to start hand-rearing the smaller pup in order to increase the chances of survival of both pups.”

Giant anteater babies grow fast, and providing enough milk for more than one infant is difficult. In addition, the mother carries the baby on her back until it is nearly her size, so carrying both twins would prove impossible for the mother after just a few weeks. Anara herself is a twin, hand-raised at the Fresno Zoo.

The larger pup has two black stripes on her back, while the smaller has only one. The smaller pup is in an incubator and being fed every three hours around the clock. She will not be on view to the public for several months.

Anara and the larger pup are expected to go out on exhibit within the next two weeks – the pup will be clinging to her mother’s back.

“Anara is doing well and is a great mother,” Barnes added. “We are delighted that both pups are female, as her previous two surviving pups were male. We need more females in order to ensure we have a genetically healthy population for his species in North America. Her mate Ridley, who came from Germany, has valuable genes that are not well represented so far. Those genes go with his offspring and help diversity the genes of giant anteaters in human care in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.”

Although twins for anteaters are rare, it is not so much the case for Anara; this is her second set of twins out of three pregnancies with Ridley.

The pair’s first offspring were twins, a male and female, born in March 2014, but the female newborn did not survive. The male pup was hand-reared and is now at the Tennessee Zoo. Nine months later, another male pup was born. He now resides at the Birmingham Zoo.

A total of 29 giant anteaters have been born at the Santa Barbara Zoo since 1975. Prior to Anara and Ridley’s first litter in 2014, the last time a giant anteater was born there was in 2006.

The local zoo was a leader in an early nationwide study of giant anteaters, thanks in great part to Grandma, who had more than 15 offspring. The average lifespan for this species is between 20 and 23, and Grandma lived to be 31 years old. She was the oldest giant anteater in captivity when she died in 2002.

Giant anteaters were once found from northern Argentina to southern Belize, in savannas, grasslands, swampy areas, and humid forests. They have since disappeared from Belize, Guatemala, and probably Costa Rica. In South America, they are also gone from Uruguay and portions of Brazil.

The Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates population loss of at least 30 percent over the past 10 years, and lists the species as “vulnerable.”

Giant anteaters have a body length of 3 to 4 feet with a tail that is an additional 2 to 3 feet, and weigh 40 to 85 pounds, though some captive anteaters have weighed more than 100 pounds.

The Santa Barbara Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $17 for adults, $13 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for children 2-12. Children under 2 are admitted free.  Parking costs $7 on weekdays and $10 on Saturdays and Sundays.

For more information, visit www.sbzoo.org.

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