Tamandua Tetradactyla Care Sheet General Info The Tamandua, sometimes referred to as the ant bear, is a medium sized anteater. They weight about 7-19 pounds. My experience is healthy adults average on the larger size over 10 pounds. They are about 2 feet long not counting the tail.
AZA Guidelines for Giant Anteater. Husbandry Manual for Small Felids. UK Marine Mammal TAG Pinniped Husbandry Guidelines (Federation of Zoos,. New article in press about giant armadillos in Uruguay. Edentata, the Newsletter of the IUCN SSC Anteater, Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Group, just released.
The tail is roughly another 2 feet in length and is prehensile. Most are about the size of a large house cat or small dog.
The standard coloring is tan with a black vest and is why they are often referred to as collard anteaters. However they also come in all blond, all black, all tan, gray and with faded vests when present. The color varies based on the region they live in the wild. Recently there are two subspecies available and evidence suggests they are actually two different species. The dark black vested from Paraguay and the light to non vested ones from Guyana.
Tamandua tetradactyla longicaudata(tamandua longicaudata) is the kind I have and they are of the blond variety with no vest. The ones from Paraguay are shunned by all longicaudata. The long tailed actually do have longer tails and longer noses as reported by one facility that has a large number of each and checked.
This very much indicates the long tails(blonds) as very much Tamandua longicaudata and not Tamandua tetradactyla. The main reason for stating this is to prevent anyone from trying to mix the two. It was tried numerous times when the Paraguayan Tamanduas first and it never works.
The Blonds hate and attack the dark vested, Paraguayan Tamanduas. In my opinion, having had some experience with both. I find the Blond longicaudata clamer and easier to work with. Though considered arboreal Tamandua will spend time on the ground looking for termite mounds and traveling, unlike it's close cousin the pygmy or silky anteater (Cyclopes didactlus) who is strictly arboreal or the Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) who is fully terrestrial.
Some even live in the savannas where there are few trees. Unfortunately because it will travel on the ground this leads to the most common sighting of tamanduas in the wild by the side of the road, hit by car. Considered a nuisance animal in their native lands they are also hunted for the tendons in their tails to make rope. They are also killed on site as many consider them a threat because they have been known to kill dogs. Some are tortured for fun even and electrocuted on power lines. They are considered a threatened species.
In the wild they eat mostly termites, ants and some grubs and fruits but avoid any ants that have strong chemicals like the warrior fire ants but will eat the workers and eggs. They have been known to raid bee hives in the wild. They love honey and sweets but may well eat the bee larvae too. Mine have never liked honey but many do.
Pua did eat some bee larvae one though. They may occasionally eat fallen fruits or flowers since they have a fondness for them in captivity. Pua loves roses and squash flowers. I often see it mentioned a person wants a tamandua or other anteater because they have ants. Tamanduas are not an effective form of pest control though some natives are said to keep them for that reason. First they will often not eat ants that are not native to where they live in the wild and much prefer to avoid the warrior ants. They also do not destroy any termite mounds they do feed from in the wild.
Instead they eat from many nests always leaving enough behind for the nest to recover, making them a primitive sort of ant farmer. Though not tending the crop of ants they only harvest what they need and leave the rest to continue to grow.
Also tamanduas held in captivity who were offered termite mounds from their native habitats fared quite poorly.(1) So anyone hoping to get an anteater to control their ants should not be thinking about getting one of these lovely creatures but instead call an exterminator.One last draw back is they would tear up your walls to get to the ants, if your home is infested. When I first began looking for information on keeping Tamanduas in captivity very little information was readily available. I have a great love for these animals however so did not let this apparent road block stop me. I have talked with handlers, private owners, zoo vets and keepers and stud book keepers.
I also managed to get my hands on several articles and studies on tamanduas and giant anteaters who have very similar requirements and health issues. I gained a great deal of knowledge about the care of these animals but also sadly realized many who already had these animals were not informed of how to properly care for them. This was not due to the owners not caring or trying to do right by them but simply a lack of readily available information like I myself was confronted with.
The worst case I have come across was a business who regularly dealt with exotics. They were experienced and caring but when they acquired their tamandua believed the seller when he told them to feed it rotten eggs. The result was a very sickly animal that died very prematurely. Other problems are not so sever. Some seek answers but often seemingly small things like chronic loose and excessively smelly stools are all to often excepted as normal or unavoidable by owners.
This is not the case however and many of the most common problems can be resolved with a proper diet. Seeing the need for a good easy to find source of information on captive tamandua husbandry I felt obligated to try and help with this care sheet. Based on the stomach contents of wild Tamanduas their diet consists of about 51% crude protein, 11% fat, 14%ash(minerals) and 4.58 kcal/g (caloric content) on a dry matter basis(2). Thus it is said they have similar dietary needs to that of an obligate carnivore like a cat and in fact need taurine like a cat does for a healthy heart.
This does not mean you can just feed them cat food. They need less calcium than most animals and they need only very little retinol(vit A). They do have some special requirements. They are hemophiliacs so need High vitamin K in their diets to aid in clotting. High B12 also helps. Supplementing vit E can be a problem but wheat germ oil is high in natural E and is good since their wild diet is high in E. They also require a good source of Potassium.
The most common, but not so good, diet is equal parts Leaf-Eater and cat food. The leaf-eater is high in Vitamin K and fiber to help maintain fecal consistency. Some feed higher Leaf eater than cat food ratio. Though animals do okay on this diet I do not believe it is truly complete and is used more for convenience.
In fact it has become fairly common for anteaters on a long term kibble diet to have a sort of MBD due to vitamin A toxisity and to much Calcium. If one wants to feed a formulated food. I know of a reportedly 22 year old Tamandua who was fed TermAnts bu Mazuri his whole life.
It still uses a lot of corn products but obviously manages to meet their needs quite well. They like and do well on diets that include raw beef but steps to ensure safety must be taken as they have been known to get Salmonella or choke to death when fibrous tissues from the meat becomes entangled around the tongue(3), though I've only seen this in reference to horse meat one needs to keep it in mind. I also had a friend with a tamandua that had a tongue problem. She could not lick and was drooling and making chocking motions. It lasted a couple weeks and they had her to the vet under examined under anesthesia. They could not see in far enough to see the cause but after manipulation the last time she woke up just fine, apparently having dislodged the obstruction.
Cases like that are not uncommon and are often a substrait issue due to using things like shavings or mulch. While some anteaters can be gluttons and highly food motivated some are hard to get eating when newly acquired. They usually love the flavor of milk so a kitten milk replacer can be used for flavor short term. Milk replacer should NOT be used long term. There is too much retinol in it. If used it should be temporary to wean them onto a healthy food mix. I have recently been told many Tamandua in Asian zoos are dying young from retinol toxicity.
Do not use long term. Try to keep any use in adults to under a month.
Aurora has been fed nothing but wild ant nests prior to coming here from a Guyana breeder. She took a mix of blue cheese and milk at first and I then weaned her onto a soup version of the beef diet. Vinegar is also palatable. Honey may also help. We tried anything and everything we could think of. The mixture Pua finally ate was milk replacer, baby cereal, powdered oat meal, yogurt, honey, and sugar. If yours wont eat you need to try anything and then wean them onto a healthier diet once they are excepting something.
A good dealer will make sure yours is healthy and eating before you get it but you need to be prepared. Some remain picky. It could be a few days after arrival before a tamandua will first eat in a new home so you don't need to panic right away.
They also must be wormed soon as you get them. Due to their lack of stomach acid they are very prone to intestinal parasites and stress causes them to come out a proliferate. Tamandua often die from internal parasites, especially giardia. We have gone through a few diets as tastes changed and I did more study into their requirements the best is saved for last. The beef diet.
Reasons behind some of the ingredients Spinich or thyme for the vitamin K. Without enough vitamin K they are hemophiliacs, bleeding without clotting from any cut or spontaneous bleeding from nose or genitalia. Vinegar: Tamanduas do not have the stomach acids of other mammals and in the wild rely on the acid in the ants they eat to help them digest their food so vinegar replaces that. Pua loves ketchup as a treat but it should be limited due to the sugar content.Pua no longer gets this in her senior years. Insects: If bought in bulk some insects will work out to only a dollar a day in the amount of insects fed.
And it's just a good idea for some insects to be in the diet of an insectivore mammal. I now buy ants in bulk from China where they are sold as tea. Wheat bran is for Fiber they need high fiber and is healthy.
Raw Beef Diet I was quite against the idea of raw meat being fed to anteaters till it happened to me. Many zoos do use raw meat in their mix. Based on my research it just seemed a bad idea so I was against it and avoided it too. Boy was i so very wrong! One day I was giving the dogs beef bones and my girl was begging so held one out to her. Instead of giving a disgusted hiss and walking away as expected she grabbed it and dug in with her claws and did a pretty good job of stripping the bone of fat and meat, not as good as the dogs but good considering what she has to work with.
She then went on a hunger strike refusing all food but beef. We came to a compromise of mixing raw beef up in place of kibble in my original 'simple diet' 3 cups beef instead of one cup kibble due to the water content. Not only have they done well they have thrived.
Pua even put on weight she had been missing since her illness up to 13 pounds she had never been over ten since we got her and got her over her initial problems. The vet was impressed enough to ask what I was feeding to have them gain weight so well and look so good at their last visit.
He never had any complaints. That vet was an X-zoo vet.
Once I added beef heart Pua gained even more muscle and got up to 17 pounds at one point she is now holding steady at a health 14 pounds but seemed to always be muscle not fat. Using the lowest fat beef you can and/or using more heart can help if you do have one who gets a bit tubby. To top it off it reduced that skunky smell. Their pee always smell pretty strong.
Many actually think it smell like marijuana! They do smell worse when unwell or stressed though so a decrease in smell means healthier. I tried changing the fiber source in case it was because of the flaxseed I was first using and didn't want to harm them if they were overdosing on something, did not effect the smell. I did switch to wheat bran latter as it has more fiber and makes for an easier to eat mix, plus there were some concerns about the hormone content int he flax seed effecting them when fed in large amounts. I at first tried to mix the kibble simple diet mix with the raw meat simple diet sometimes but to long doing that and they start to get more skunky again, especial stinky Stewie.
Skunky pee smell also comes back if stressed or ill. Pua tends to get a bit skunky pee when in heat, because it does stress her body still gets that old bologna smell when she's ready for a mate. Recipe The diet is 3 cups ground beef 3 cups feeder insects if fresh, dried you could feed less. 1 cup beef heart 1 wheat bran 1/3 cup spinach or fresh thyme(you would use less dried thyme. Thyme is higher in K and iron than spinach around a tsp) 3tbls ground chia seeds(for iron and minerals) 2 tbls nutritional yeast(for iron and B vitamins)(They have very high iron needs) Lately I have been doing 2 cups heart and 2 cups lean ground beef to lower the fat. A friend actually uses Elk and I have heart of ground turkey being used but it has less iron and a larger risk of salmonella. Always add vinegar, cider preferred.
Apple cider vinegar does a much better job of digesting things for them. It aids the digestion but is antimicrobial as well as an added defense against possible infection from the meat, but I've had no issues. Pua also drinks as much vinegar with her meals as she wants. Always add diatomaceous earth DE and vinegar are best added to the mix. A cup and a half to 2 cups is about a days worth for one so add a days dose of DE each and vinegar each to that amount of food roughly. They both will seek out and take sips of vinegar anyway.
I sometimes added natural minerals but no longer do. Pua likes to suck the seeds out of tomatoes so I sometimes tossed the left over into the food mix when I was making Aurora soup. Some wheat germ oil should be given for Vit E which also helps if to much retinol is given like when you add cheese or give cheese for treats, it inhibits retinol absorption. The vit A content of the recipe is all Caratinoids which the body only converts into real vit A if it needs it so you wont get the toxicity seen with food high in retinol. Add some cheese treats occasionally for retinol as we don't know for sure Tamanduas can convert caratinoids but it would seem they can since having such a small need.
You can rotate types of insects but the best are silkworms and silkworm pupae as they are nutritionally very similar to ants. You can use some portabello mushroom in place of the molasses sometimes. You can use bee pollen in place of yeast sometimes.
It's good to rotate some items so the diet is not to static. Pua has became so much healthier on the beef diet and her fur is even softer, her tail and ears didn't need oiling any more either till older and still only in winter when the indoor air gets dry. It does 'sound bad' and seems a risk to feed raw meat to an anteater but it's proven the opposite for mine and many others. She became so much more energetic and playful. She even decided she would expand her tastes and enjoys fruit, baby foods and some juices, and she used to have kinda brittle claws when trimmed, but no more. Some times I've cheated and used nail clippers to nip the tips off, and they grow out nice and pointed as they should.
I still prefer filing.Try to keep them a bit pointed and they will be more likely to shed them on their own when clawing up old logs for enrichment. I do not mix any water with it unless making soup which I no longer do. I've never heard of anyone feeding a solid diet like this before either but that even proved good for them. They have to work at their food like they would in the wild. They claw little bits then pop it into their mouth and go for more. As I said a lot of the zoo diets I found do include raw meats and I had never liked the idea.
When weaning wild tams onto food a common way to do it is sprinkle ground raw beef on termite nests as beef is most palatable to them. So I'm not the first to feed raw beef. I'm just the first to do it in this way. They never had any problems with sinew and the ribs either. I do tend to think part of the problem is if there is a random floating string of sinew in a gruel verses sinew firmly encased in a chunk of meat they know they are eating. If the Aurora is in a lazy mood and wanting liquid food I will blend the beef mix above with water after soaking it in vinegar for a day so the vinegar softens up all the meat fibers then I blend it in a professional grade blender on smoothy mode twice. It gets nice and smooth then.
Other keepers have since used this and seen similar results with weight gain and over all better health and appetites. A conservation center even had breeding and babies where they had none before. So much, in fact they had to start separating moms from males for awhile as they would breed back right away. Treats Treats can include melons whole sliced or mashed. Many love breaking apart the melons themselves for an enrichment activity. They then claw it to mush and lick it up.
Stewie had fun with coconut parts and Pua like coconut flour but only after I boil it then squeeze all the coconut milk out so it's just moist fiber. Other treats given include blue cheese, oranges, avocado, banana, crickets, yogurt, mealworms, apple sauce, grapes, pumpkin, ants, termites, cucumber, grapefruit, papaya, baby food, honey, tomato, apple whole or sliced, molasses, frozen treats, other fruits, fruit juices, spray cheese, yogurt and feeder insects. Try to keep sugary snacks and dairy to a minimum though.
I also occasionally trap termites for her to eat out of the woods and she finds ant nests for herself on walks. Sometimes she will take crickets if ground up for her and likes cheese in a kong toy. Her tastes often change. She liked yogurt for awhile then stopped and likes spicy things like guacamole, tomato sauce, and V-8. She loves ketchup, bar-b-q sauce, and spray cheese and of course ants.Ori even loved horseradish for some reason. I tried using it to stop her clawing the wall but she loved it instead.
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Housing Housing of tamanduas varies widely. From fancy enclosures of 100'x100' to kennels in the home of 4x4x6 and free roam of the home during the day. I started with a 4x4x6 cage but they quickly talked their way into having full run of the room 24/7 though they are only awake at night. I no longer feel such a small cage is acceptable by modern standards. If they are to be kept in the cage most of the time It should be closer to 10x10x6(feet).
However they are housed they need things to climb on and some exercise. They need room to roam as well. Mine loves to explore and gets weekly walks on woodland trails when weather allows. She loves to run the trails. The male loved to run circles in the living room each night. Now that they are older they are less active but Aurora still gets up during the day some summer days to go out and sunbath and walk around supervised and Pua still gets some walks in the woods but her arthritis makes it a bit harder.
They need warm constant temperatures so if the enclosure is outside they need a portion of it enclosed and protected from the elements. Ideal temps for health is 65-80. The heat should never drop below 65f in the indoor portion and they should not be allowed outside on days with frost advisories in effect.They should be kept at temps below 90f. If temps reach or exceed 90f then measures should be taken to keep the animal cool. The male could get heat sick at 85 and seen both shiver at 65. 75F is the ideal.I keep it 75-78 in the winter and aim for 75-80 in the summer. I used to keep it a bit cooler and just put a sweater on Pua if needed but Aurora does not like to get handled and was prone to getting sick so I started keep things warmer.
Be sure there are no sharp edges on the caging or objects present in it for them to cut themselves on. They will reach out and claw at anything near their cage so be careful of anything they could get hurt on or get their claws stuck in or shred. They need den boxes or covered housing of some sort even hollowed out logs are appreciated. They need heat whether in the form of a heating pad or a heat lamp if the room is allowed to get cool.
Mine also will wear sweaters but is not advised if not supervised. They are usually only on for walks or till she warms up at home. Mine love a pouched hammock I made them my female took to it the first night. Branches shelves and other layers for climbing on are important. Try to avoid wood walls directly to the outside of their enclosures as some have been known to claw their way out.
Aurora loves her den box and most know that Pua now sleeps in an old washer most days though long ago she used to sleep in bed with me. Contrary to most information you will find I will say Tamanduas are not solitary, or at least they should not be kept that way.
They love attention and love to have a companion of their own species. They seem to be much healthier and happier in a home setting but if they must be housed separately like at a zoo they should have a friend. One simply needs to take the time to introduce them slowly and make sure they are the same subspecies. I will go so far as to say they are quite social.
They may not live in family groups in the wild but they have been proven to share territory with multiple other tamanduas in the wild. They have their own instinctual social rituals, such as poking each others hands and feet with their claws as part of their bonding and love to play wrestle with each other. When I only had the female she suffered from separation anxiety and would cry for me. If one can not be a part of the family, I believe, they need their own family in the form of another tamandua companion.
She was been more easily startled and upset after we lost the Stewie but she was still happy and played with me a lot.She became less moody once we got Aurora and after they finally became friends. Anteater Pox Healthy Tamanduas are thought to have a captive lifespan of about 9-11yrs, the oldest on record having reached 19 but I heard from a keeper of one thought to be 22 years in Europe. Tamandua mexican has a lifespan of 16 so tamandua tetradactyla could well be similar with real quality care as the info on life span is limited and based on cases before care and diet were improved with studies. Their normal temp is about 93.6F give or take a little.
Tamanduas generally respond well to canine medications when needed. Try to find a good vet that can get information from a zoo vet. I personally found I like working with my regular small animal vet much more than I did the exotic vet we tried. You will want a vet who listenes to you as you are likely to know more about the species than they will and they will need you present to help hold them and keep them calm for procedures. Says: Hello I was wondering if anyone could help me. I am a wildlife rehabilitator working at a small avian rehabilitation clinic in Belize. I am currently 'babysitting' a young Tamandua that has been confiscated from illegal confinement.
She is a great little forager and I spend upwards of 4 hours a day out following her around as she eats termites, at ant nests etc but it is still not enough and she is still losing weight. I am a short-term caregiver only but if she doesn't learn to eat some commercially available foods, I'm afraid that her outlook is not good.
I have offered her whole soft fruit, purreed fruit, honey, canned cat/dog food, raw beef and vinegar and various combinations of the above. She will not touch any of it. Please let me know if you have any suggestions in enticing this little one to eat.
Thanks Tracy. Says: You could try collecting some termites/ants and dust from their homes and mix with the food. I had read one way to get them to eat was to sprinkle raw hamburger on the termite nests and then start adding more over time. If she was being held by people before she must have been eating something.
Giant Anteater Gestation
Part of the problem may be the foraging. Pua will beg for treats and not eat her food till late if she thinks she can get some. So your girl may be holding out for the good stuff, termites and ants.
Maybe try feeding her really late at night so her belly is really empty. Pua's favorites(besides insects) are ketchup, juice, bar b q sauce, blue cheese and a few other cheeses(like spray cheese/cheese spreads), avocado, sometimes yogurt.
She really liked infant milk formula when she was younger, though she was an adult when I got her. Sometimes they like the commercial baby foods. Says: Your baby is only a few days old and still needs milk. They start sampling food around 3 months.
My recent baby was.39kg at 2 days old. Be careful baby doesn't aspirate the milk if bottle feeding. Some will like milk from a dropper instead. Keep baby warm. Our mom is still spending most of her time curled around baby too keep him warm. When moving baby around he'll feel more secure if he is clinging on something like he would mom. You may need to rub the ears and tail with a moisturizing oil, like aloe, if they start to look dry.
I'm not sure you even need to soy as I've heard of them raised on just carnivore formula(cat or dog formulas) and sometimes low lactose human formula but carnivore is better for the higher protein. I've been meaning to get the nutritional make up of tamandua milk to know what best to nurse them with.
I'll try and get back to you on that once I have it. Says: at that size she's be about 1.5 to 2 months old. She should still be on milk. They have been raised successfully on low lactose human, cat or dog formulas.
Cat is bet if you can get it because their milk is high in fat. They nurse till 8-12 months but when hand raised you can switch sooner. They start sampling food at about3 months.
Giant Anteater Life Cycle
Cinco is eating a lot of food but still nursing at 3.5 months. I take the beef food and soak it in vinegar for two day then blend it with water for Aurora. Soaking it soften the meat fibers and makes it a smother mix. I added a little blue cheese one day to get Aurora to eat more and that's when Cinco decided he liked it. He's been eating great since though still nursing too.
He even takes some non-watered down mix. Blue cheese tastes like one of their favorite kinds of ants. It's a great way to getting them to eat a captive diet. Aurora had been only fed ants before coming here and mixing blue cheese soup worked for her.
I started her off on a blue cheese formula mix at first even though she's an adult then switched her over. She really needs the formula right now. They grow so fast they need the energy. If you can't get that though you can try goats milk.
She may be old enough to take the milk from a bowl if it smells enticing to her. So if she doesn't take it you can try mixing some blue cheese in. If all else fails a syringe with a nipple or soft tip is a good way to go to get them taking milk.