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The Giant Anteater – The World’s Largest Anteater

First Published: 15th of July, 2022 by Patrick Carpen

Last updated: December 8, 2022 at 17:06 pm

Guyana is known as the land of the giants, and the giant anteater, the world’s largest anteater, is one of the six or seven reasons why. The giant anteater goes by the scientific name Myrmecophaga tridactyla. It is a mammal which feeds on insects and has an average lifespan of 14 years. About two to three feet in height, the giant anteater weighs between 40 and 140 pounds. The giant anteater can reach as long as eight feet from the tip of its snout to the end of its tail.

As I was cruising through with my 2 friends, enjoying the wind and the open space – the tranquility out in the rolling vast savannahs, in the horizon, there she was!! Yes!!! Gracing her way towards us, showing off her beauty and her perfectly placed beautiful young one on her back. She stopped while noticing us, allowing us to better admire her, letting out her long sticky coated tongue as if she was teasing us (maybe she was) . This stunning creature left us in awe as she faded like sunsets in the savannahs. This wasn’t my first encounter with the Giant Anteaters, but every time I see them, I get so excited!!!! Btw, anteaters are edentate animals, they have no teeth!! I couldn’t have asked for anything else!!!

Helen lawrence – tour guide of yupukari village, central rupununi.

Although the giant anteater has no teeth, it has a long tongue with which it laps up an estimated 35,000 ants and termites everyday. The giant anteater sports a bushy tail, white front legs, and greyish brown fur. It has black stripes running from its chest to its back.

The giant anteater is found in South and Central Americas in tropical and dry savannahs, forests, and open grasslands – all of which provide an abundance of ants for it to feed on. Using its claws, the giant anteater would tear an opening into an anthill, insert its long snout, and use its long tongue and sticky saliva to lick up the ants. The anteater exercises great speed and efficiency during eating – flicking its tongue an estimated 150 times per minute as the ants fight back with painful stings. After a few minutes of feeding, the giant anteater withdraws, leaving the ant nest intact so it can return to feed again sometime in the future.

The giant anteater has poor eyesight, but a very strong sense of smell which it uses to locate its prey. The giant anteater is reputed to have a sense of smell 40 times more powerful than that of a human.

The giant anteater may be described as a solitary animal. The females bear an offspring every year. The offspring, which can sometimes be seen riding on its mother’s back, as in Helen Lawrence’s photo’s above, leaves its mother after two years of age – when it is considered fully grown.

Although they are generally not aggressive, the giant anteater can attack if it feels cornered. With sharp claws up to 4 inches long, the giant anteater can fight off even a puma or jaguar.

A vulnerable species, the giant anteater is considered extinct in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Uruguay. In some parts of Brazil, where road networks have interrupted their habitat, the giant anteater is often killed by road traffic. Aside from that, the giant anteater is sometimes killed for food and because people consider them pests. In Guyana, the giant anteater is treasured and protected, a rare and splendid sight for travelers through the Rupununi Savannahs.

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