A giant anteater baby will be a star attraction this half term at the award-winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
Mum Tammy, who arrived at the park from a zoo in France in October, shocked staff when she gave birth to a female pup on January 13.
“No-one here or at her previous home was aware of the pregnancy but it was a fantastic surprise,” said animal manager Debbie Porter.
“Tammy was brought to the park last year in hope that she would eventually breed with our male anteater Niki. Little did we know she must have already been pregnant.
“The birth is fantastic and a great boost for these endangered animals. We encourage all visitors to come down and visit our cutest new arrival this half term.”
Pregnancy for giant anteaters, who give birth to a single baby at a time, lasts six months and their thick fur makes it difficult to detect their condition.
The baby immediately latches onto the fur of the mother’s back where it stays for around a year using the fur for warmth and as camouflage for protection.
“The anteater baby does not have a name yet but we are running a competition on social media to ask guests for suggestions beginning with this year’s letter ‘L’,” added Debbie.
“Our main focus has been maintaining a natural and peaceful environment for mum and baby so her sex and weight was unknown for a while,”
Tammy was at Zoo de la Barben, in Provence, before coming to YWP as a potential mate to Niki who has been at the park for three years as part of an international breeding programme.
Giant anteaters are one of the most endangered mammals in central and South America, where its natural habitat is disappearing and it is hunted for its meat and snared by animal trackers.
They can consume around 35,000 insects a day with their sticky 60cm long tongues but only 5,000 are left in the wild.
Giant anteaters are the most recognisable of the four anteater species and the largest insectivore on earth, weighing up to 120 pounds.
Anteaters have a sharp sense of smell in their distinctive, tubular snout and have powerful claws to dig out ant and termite nests but they have no teeth so rely on a 60cm long tongue with extra sticky saliva to capture insects.
YWP, which opened in 2009, is the UK’s No. 1 walkthrough wildlife adventure and is home to some of the world’s most endangered and beautiful animals, including Amur leopards and tigers, giant otters and polar bears. It is a major force in animal conservation and welfare and supports projects around the world that are protecting at risk species.