The San Diego Zoo’s first anteaters arrived from Paraguay in 1937, and we’ve had them on and off over the years since. We welcomed the first birth of a baby giant anteater at our zoo in 1980.
Today, the Zoo is home to two giant anteaters, Lucy and Kane. They were part of a group of 14 giant anteaters imported from Paraguay in 2002 by the Nashville Zoo. Although male giant anteaters are larger than the females, when they arrived in San Diego in 2003, we discovered that Lucy outweighed Kane by 25 pounds (11 kilograms)! Lucy would not cooperate with Kane during breeding attempts; instead, she would just push him over. Hoping for a baby and noting Lucy’s calm disposition around her keepers, she was trained for ultrasound procedures to detect a pregnancy. Kane finally prevailed, and in 2006, their first offspring together was born.
Kane is currently off exhibit, but Lucy is now adjusting to new digs along the Zoo’s Park Way. She shares an exhibit with two maned wolves, which are also from South America’s grasslands. She spends the morning sleeping in her den but comes out in the early afternoon during the maned wolf keeper talk.
Giant anteaters are not endangered yet, but they have already disappeared from much of their habitat due to habitat loss, especially from fires in grassland regions, and hunting, both for food and as pests. Vehicles often hit the animals while they lumber across a road, and they also get killed by pet dogs. It is estimated that only 5,000 giant anteaters are left in the wild, while a small number (around 90) live in zoos in the US.
Giant anteaters have been around for 25 million years, and we hope that they can nose their way into the next million. You can help us bring other species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.