NASHVILLE, Tenn: (WKRN) – When most people think of anteaters they might not think of them as a species that spends most of their time up high in the treetops or whose diet consists of ripe avocadoes. Well, meet “Andre” the Tamandua, or Lesser Anteater at Nashville Zoo.
“So, more people are familiar with giant anteaters,” explained Cameron Luna, Nashville Zoo Animal Ambassador Keeper. “Giant anteaters are over six feet long, they live on the ground. Andre is full grown. He’s not going to get any bigger than this. So, in the animal world, lesser just means smaller. He is an anteater. So, of course, he does east thousands of ants in a sitting, but luckily for me, he also loves avocados. So, he’s making some guacamole as we speak.”
“He’s got those massive claws that help him out when he’s breaking into things like ant hills and termite mounds, but he also can use those to tear apart that avocado and get that really mushy texture that he likes. He loves a good ripe avocado,” Luna pointed out.
Lesser anteaters are found in Central and South America. They are an arboreal species, meaning they spend most of their time in treetops, though they do come down to the ground to get ants.
“He has a tongue that’s over twelve inches long, but it’s only about as thick as two spaghetti noodles,” Luna explained. “You can kind of see it sticking out right here. So, he can stick his tongue in and out hundreds of times a minute. It’s covered in super sticky saliva, so he can slurp up all those delicious bugs. He doesn’t even really have to chew them.”
You can see Andre and lots of other animals at the “Wild Works Animal Shows” that begins on Friday, March 10th, and lasts through October.
“The best place to see Andre is actually in our shows,” Luna said. “We have two shows every day at 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM. Andre is in our show that runs Wednesday through Saturday. He also occasionally does encounters and walks around the zoo. Our Wild Works Animal Show allows us to introduce people to animals they’ve never heard of and also talk about some of the amazing conservation efforts the zoo is involved in. Our Wild Works Programs. One of the conservation organizations we work with actually benefits anteaters just like Andre.”
I bet you never thought an anteater could be so cute!