Anteater – Wildlife in Central America
FINCA TATIN, Guatemala- Anteaters like to inhabit the banks of rivers, swampy savannas, and the dark depths of humid forests. One such anteater pushed the bounds of his habitat in the eastern jungles of Guatemala. He fell into the Rio Dulce.
Apparently, anteaters float.
Or at least they float long enough to be rescued by a passing lanchero, who wheeled his boat over to the struggling anteater and scooped him up out of the water. Perhaps not fully knowing what he could do with a half drowned anteater the lanchero flagged down a passing boat, and an anteater was passed on to the Finca Tatin.
Arriving at the main dock of the finca, the anteater served as a beacon for every camera touting backpacker within ear shot of the yells, “Wade! Come quick, there’s an anteater!”
I came quick, and saw the young anteater in the front of the boat. His eyes were solid black, lacking all expression, he sat in the front of the boat completely subdued. One moment, this anteater was climbing in the trees above the river, the next he ended up staring at a bunch of humans who were overtly delighted by his presence.
The anteater soon became the guest of honor at the finca, and, like so, he was promptly sacked. He was stuffed into a net.
One of the Maya workers — a man familiar with such things of the jungle — tossed a net over the anteater and the owner removed it from the boat. He carried it into the forest behind the finca.
The anteater was then laid down upon the forest’s surface. He bolted up a tree. Perhaps he is still eating ants and termites at the finca today?
Anteaters live throughout Central and South America, where they frequent swamps and forests. Nowhere in the world could they be considered abundant, and in many places they are in grave danger of becoming extinct. In more than two months of living in the Guatemala jungle, this was the first anteater that I have yet seen — and it had to have fallen out of a tree and into the river for me to do so. Anteaters are not common.
Anteaters are from the same family as sloths and armadillos, but are unrelated to aardvarks and pangolins, whose similar appearance is a result of convergent evolution.
Anteaters have long toothless snouts which houses an extraordinary tongue. They eat ants and raid termite mounds, feeding mostly nocturnally. They break into termite mounds and ant hills with their sharp anterior claws, and then stuff in their snouts and begin flicking their tongue inside to eat whatever it can reach. As anteaters are toothless, their digestion is assisted by pebbles and various other debris that they take into their bodies while eating. The anteater’s tongue is long and sticky, and can be flicked out of the mouth and back upwards of 150 times per minute. Termites and ants cannot help but to become stuck to it upon contact. Upon bringing food into the mouth, the anteater’s tongue is wiped against the hard palate, quickly clearing away the ants and termites so that it can again be flicked out clean to consume more.
An adult anteater can eat up to 30,000 termites and ants per day.
There are three main genus of anteater, who differ from each other in both appearance and behavior. The Tamandua and Southern Tamandua Anteaters (shown in the photos on this page) are mostly arboreal, climbing and searching in the trees for food as well as protection, while the Giant Anteater measures four feet long without the tail, and lives on the ground, and the Silky Anteater — which is about the size of a cat — lives almost exclusively in the trees.
The name for anteaters in Spanish is “oso hormiguero,” which translates roughly as, “bear of the ant’s nest.”
Habitat range of anteaters
Anteaters live throughout Central and South America, from the south of Mexico through Guatemala and Belize to Brazil, Bolivia, and the northern fringes of Argentina.
Map of anteater range in Central America
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