Anteaters: Anteaters have long snouts and no teeth. They use their powerful front legs and long claws to tear open ant and termite nests, and then a long sticky tongue to gather up the insects. Anteaters do not walk on the soles of their feet when on the ground, but instead twist their foot and walk on the side or the knuckles. This leaves distinctive, odd-looking tracks.
Giant Anteater
Myrmecophaga tridactyla Giant Anteater image
Makushi name: Tumanuwa
Creole name: Ants Eater
Size: body=1.2 m; tail=75 cm; weight=30 kg
Description: Large, appears "too long" for its height, due to long bushy tail and long nose. Distinct markings on chest and forelegs; four claws on forefoot, five claws on hind foot. Unmistakable.
Activity: May be active by day or night; activity cycle varies with external temperature, rainfall and extent of human disturbance. Terrestrial, moves with a shuffling gait or rolling gallop.
Habits: Solitary except when breeding; female carries young on their back for up to 9 months. This large anteater travels long distances when feeding, moving at a fast walk. It uses its powerful claws to open large termite mounds or terrestrial ant nests, stopping for only a few seconds at each mound to feed. The short feeding bouts enable it to quickly gather larvae and workers from the colony before soldier insects are mobilized to bite or spray noxious chemicals at its nose and mouth. It is usually silent but may roar when threatened. If cornered, it will rear up and slash at the attacker with its massive claws.
Habitat: Forest and savannah. Most common in areas with conspicuous termite mounds.
Signs: Odd-looking tracks show front claws pointing backward or laterally (it walks on the knuckles with the claws turned under), front track 80 to 100 mm wide; breakage to the upper levels of large termite mounds indicate recent activity of this species (Giant Armadillo attacks near base of mounds).
Status: Absent from many suitable areas due to human persecution. Listed on CITES Appendix II. IUCN rank of Vulnerable.
Distribution in Iwokrama
Tamandua tetradactyla Tamandua image
Makushi name: Waiwo
Size: body=60 cm; tail=50 cm; weight=6 kg
Description: Medium-sized, with a long prehensile tail. May be blonde on head, upper back and legs, with a black vest, or entirely blonde, or blonde with a partial vest. Four large claws on powerful forelimbs, five claws on hind limbs; tail almost naked, pink with irregular blackish splotches.
Activity: Nocturnal or diurnal; semiarboreal.
Habits: Solitary. It may be seen walking on the forest floor, stopping to open rotting logs, but is equally likely to be seen climbing on vines and branches, or dozing on a branch. It may sleep in hollow logs or in holes on the ground. It feeds on ants, termites and bees. It attacks arboreal termite nests and obtains ants from ground nests. It is usually silent but can be located by sounds of tearing wood. When threatened it may wheeze and spit or urinate, and may rear up, using the tail as a brace. It has been known to kill domestic dogs.
Habitat: Forest, second growth and savannah.
Signs: Odd-looking tracks with front claws pointing backward, front 55 mm wide, hind 40 mm wide; broken arboreal termite nests and slashes in rotten wood indicate recent activity.
Status: Fairly common.
Distribution in Iwokrama
Pygmy Anteater
Cyclopes didactylus Pygmy Anteater image
Makushi name: Warin
Creole name: Silky Anteater, Thank yee God
Size: body=15 cm; tail=20 cm; weight=225 g
Description: Very small, with a furry prehensile tail. Golden brown with a silvery sheen; black stripes down midline of back and belly. Two large claws on forefoot, four claws on hind foot. Tail long and tapered, furred to tip. Unlike any other small arboreal mammal.
Activity: Nocturnal, active soon after sunset to within an hour of dawn; strictly arboreal.
Habits: Solitary; each individual occupies a large home range. During the day it sleeps curled up in a vine tangle, 2 to 10 m above ground. It travels on pencil-thin vines, using the large front claws to open hollow stems in search of ants, its preferred food. It is reported to make a soft whistle but it is usually silent.
Habitat: Mature forest and tall secondary forest.
Signs: Look for a furry golden ball in a vine tangle.
Status: Probably not uncommon but seldom encountered. Not yet recorded at Iwokrama but expected to be there.

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