The Tallahassee Museum is encouraging visitors to meet its new guest animal. A giant anteater will be making the Museum its home while its Brevard Zoo enclosure is being enlarged.
The 17-year-old, 90-pound giant anteater is sure to turn the heads of Museum visitors. But stick around a while, and they might find there are more surprises to this native of Central and South America.
Suzie Buzzo, the Museum’s assistant animal curator, says the female anteater is on a special insectivore diet because it would be a tall order to procure all the ants it would eat in the wild.
“These guys are such cool creatures. They have a tongue that’s two feet long, it’s sticky and it has little spines on it, which helps them suck in all the ants and termites from the mounds,” Buzzo said. “In the wild (anteaters) eat 30,000 ants or termites per day.”
This particular anteater’s favorite snack likely wouldn’t be your first guess.
“She will do anything for an avocado,” Buzzo said. “I don’t think that’s in their native diet, but she absolutely loves it.”
However, it can’t be just any avocado:
“You gotta make sure you have a good ripe avocado, that’s soft, because they have no teeth,” Buzzo said. “So, she can’t eat anything that’s not mush, or tiny little ants.”
Though it is roughly the size of a large dog, Buzzo says this anteater has a calm, gentle demeanor:
“She is very calm, she’s easy going. I mean these guys – they have to protect themselves in the wild, and I’ve even heard one killed a jaguar. But she’s pretty mellow and easy going.”
The anteater does have a mate who stayed behind at the Brevard zoo, but Buzzo says there need be no worries about the Museum’s guest being lonely.
“They are re-doing their exhibit, so they are rebuilding it and making it larger. So the mate is staying back because they do have a big area, but these guys are solitary, so they weren’t getting along so well in smaller quarters,” Buzzo said. “So she came to us and he stayed, and they’ll be reunited when she goes back home.”
Buzzo says the anteater’s ideal habitat is in temperatures of about 90 degrees, but as winter approaches it will have heaters in her enclosure to make sure it’s comfortable.