Giant Anteater with a baby on its back – Pantanal, Brazil 2022

Giant Anteater with a baby on its back. After a long and very hot day in the field in Brazil’s Southern Pantanal, we were heading for the air-conditioned comfort of our lodge. The light was fading fast as we glimpsed something moving in the distance . A Giant Anteater! As we got closer we realised not only was it a Giant Anteater but it was carrying a baby Anteater on its back. What a sight to behold. Despite the challenging light conditions, I filmed the scene anyway. A rather grainy film was the result but this was such special subject! A Giant Anteater on is back had been on the wish list for a long time.

Giant Anteaters walk with a slow shuffle with their claws curled up in to their feet so as to prevent them becoming blunt. Very sharp claws are needed to dig into anthills and termite mounds, and to defend themselves from predators. As their name suggests, they eat ants and termites, taking upwards of 30,000 a day. Their 60cm long tongue darts into the anthill (up to 150 times per minute) collecting ants and termites with its sticky saliva. Giant Anteaters have no teeth, but rather crushes its prey against the roof of the mouth. Giant Anteaters keep their feeding time short so as to conserve prey for another day and also to avoid the attention of soldier ants and termites which can both bite and release unpleasant secretions.

With its long snout and bushy tails (0.7-0.9m) they are curious-looking creatures. The tail is used to provide shade from the sun when sleeping or it can provide insulation on cold days. They have poor eyesight and hearing but an acute sense of smell. They are 1-1.2m in length and weigh between 27-64kg.

They usually give birth to just one young weighing in at about 1.4kg. The pup spends the first year of its life riding on its mothers back.

The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wet land and flooded grasslands. Whilst mostly located in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, it also extends into Mato Grosso and parts of Paraguay and Bolivia. It covers an area of up to 195,00 square kilometres (75,000 square miles) and some 80%of the floodplains are submerged during the rainy season. It is a remarkable place.