Hold on tight! Baby anteater hitches ride on mum after surprising visitors
Visitors to Longleat Safari & Adventure Park in Wiltshire had an unexpected surprise when they witnessed the arrival of a rare baby giant anteater.
Choccy woccy doo dah, or "Choccy", as he's been nicknamed by keepers, made his unscheduled appearance just before midday in front of a stunned audience of onlookers, who were particularly lucky as the animals usually birth at night.
The tiny anteater's arrival is particularly welcome as the species is officially listed as "Vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
"It's extremely rare to actually witness the birth of a giant anteater so those visitors were very lucky indeed – I'm actually quite jealous!" said keeper Catriona Carr.
"We knew that mum Maroni was pregnant but we weren't 100% certain when the baby was due so when we got the news she had given birth we were both delighted and a little bit nervous.
"To have a successful birth with our anteaters is fantastic. It's especially good to see mum and Choccy showing all the usual signs of a mother and baby relationship in the early stages.
"For the first six months Maroni will carry Choccy on her back virtually all the time. The baby takes milk by moving around underneath mum and only very rarely lets go.
"The baby aligns itself to the pattern on mum's back to provide camouflage from any predators who might prey on the young. It's so effective that it's almost as if the baby become invisible," she added.
But, every couple of days, little Choccy has to be prised off mum's back to get weighed, and to have the area between his ears and the end of his nose measured to see how fast he's growing.
Mum Maroni, who was born in France, and German dad Bonito arrived at Longleat two years ago as part of a co-ordinated European Breeding Programme for the species.
Giant Anteaters originate from South America and can be found in tropical and deciduous forests.
As its name suggests, the giant anteater is the largest of the anteater family and can grow to over two metres in length with tongues that extend to more than 60cm.
Their long nose, tongue and sharp claws enable them to get to into ant and termite mounds, eating over 30,000 insects in a single day.
We never realised quite how cute they are...
For information about visiting the park, visiti longleat.co.uk
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