ABILENE, Texas (News Release) — A female giant anteater from the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island has been matched with the Abilene Zoo’s male giant anteater, Beni, as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), and is now on exhibit in the South America region of the zoo.
These dedicated programs create a healthy and sustaining breeding program for endangered species.
The nearly 2-year-old giant anteater is named Demo, a combination of her parents’ names, Delilah and Mochilla.
Demo can be seen in the back exhibit as her and Beni make introductions and acclimate to one another.
“Zoos accredited by AZA are working with giant anteaters to maintain an assurance population and to support conservation programs in their home range,” said General Curator Denise Ibarra. “Research shows that only around 5,000 giant anteaters remain in the wild.”
Giant anteaters are considered a threatened species overall. They are hunted for food, hit by cars, and driven out of their habitat as land becomes local farming ground.
This unique animal is the largest of the three anteater species with thick, bushy, gray hair that grows incredibly long on the tail.
The giant anteater’s gestation period is about 6 months, and after birth, its young climb on the mother’s back, where they will remain for up to a year.
They have an elongated head that includes both a nose and mouth specialized for feeding on insects.
“We are optimistic that one day we will get to announce the impending arrival of a tiny new giant anteater to the zoo,” said Ibarra. “Until then, we are thrilled to welcome Demo to the Zoo Crew here in Abilene.”
The giant anteater exhibit is relatively new to the zoo footprint.
Construction of the exhibit was completed and opened to the public in May 2018 as part of the 2015 City of Abilene bond program.
The public is invited to come out and meet Demo daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Abilene Zoo.