23 Feb 2018

Four-year-old male Oso has moved from a zoo in Cumbria having been carefully chosen as a perfect match for the zoo’s resident female, Bliss.

Oso will be slowly introduced to his new companion by the zoo’s team of keepers after being selected as an ideal genetic pairing. Zoo keepers hope the duo will get along famously and produce young in the future! Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, said:

Oso is a very important giant anteater as males are scarce in the European breeding programme. His genetic makeup is vital to the future conservation breeding of the species and hopefully, in time, he’ll hit it off with female Bliss and they’ll go on to have pups.

Giant anteaters, which are native to Central and South America, are classed a vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are threatened on both continents, where much of the grassland they depend on to survive has been destroyed. In some areas of Brazil where they once roamed freely there are now none left. 

Cat Barton, the zoo’s Field Conservation Manager, explains:

Few long-term studies of giant anteaters have ever been carried out, making effective conservation actions for these unique-looking animals very difficult. However, the zoo is supporting efforts in South America which are working to put that right.Our work with the giant anteaters at the zoo and our support for conservation projects in the wild are critical to understanding more about this wonderful animal and to protecting future generations.

Despite its size, the giant anteater feeds mostly on tiny insects and can eat up to 30,000 ants or termites in a day. They are one of only two mammals without any teeth, and instead use their sticky tongue which can reach two feet in length and can extend and withdraw at up to 150 times per minute to feed!