KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tiana, Zoo Knoxville’s newest resident, made her debut Thursday, Feb. 27. The 18-year-old female giant anteater is the first anteater to make Zoo Knoxville home and is on loan from the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.
So what do you need to know about anteaters before you pay a visit to see her?
An anteater is one of the more unusual mammals on Earth. It is in the same superorder as sloths and armadillos. Physically, they can grow as long as 7 feet and weigh as much as 125 pounds. Tiana is 6 feet long and weighs 100 pounds.
They also have no teeth, instead they rely on their tounges and hard plates in their mouths to eat. Their tongues are 2 feet long, have tiny backward-facing barbs and are covered in sticky saliva. It is the longest tongue in relation to its body size of any mammal.
Don’t eat just ants
Anteaters are insectivores, meaning they prey on “social insects” including ants and termites. However, they also feast on soft fruit,s as well as beetle and bee larvae.
Tiana’s favorite foods are avocadoes, yogurt and hard-boiled eggs. At Zoo Knoxville, Tiana will also get crushed grain in an oatmeal-like paste to supplement her diet.
Central, South American origin
Giant anteaters range from Honduras in Central America to Bolivia in South America. They are generally found in tropical and dry forests, savannas and grasslands. They are currently classified as a threatened species as much of their habitat has been lost to fires.
It is estimated that only 5,000 giant anteaters are left in the wild. Around 90 of them live in zoos across the United States.
The giant anteater can sleep around 15 to 16 hours a day. Tiana’s current favorite napping spot is a tub with wood shavings inside it.
Anteaters are actually strong swimmers. Tiana has two soaking pools in her enclosure, one indoor and one outdoor, to take baths in. She will have outside access when the weather is in the 40s and sunny.
They can also move quickly on land when they need to. The anteater can reach a speed of 30 mph.
Giant anteaters have been around for 25 million years.