BRIDGEPORT — Move over baby tigers. There will be some competition for cuteness coming soon.
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo announced this week that it has a new addition to its collection of adorable animals — a baby giant anteater, who was born on July 30 to an adult pair that has been at the zoo since 2016. The baby is expected to be introduced to the public in the coming weeks.
The little male anteater doesn’t have a name yet. Zoo officials say they’ll soon be taking suggestions from the public. He weighs 9 pounds, and he loves cuddling his teddy bear, just like human babies.
A relative of the tree sloth, the giant anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla, has one of the best noses on the planet. It can smell about 40 times better than humans.
“As you can see, they have particularly long snouts, full of olfactory nerves,” said Gregg Dancho, zoo director.
In the wild, the giant anteater eats many thousands of ants, termites and other insects every day, a diet that’s impossible to duplicate in captivity. Instead, they’re fed from a menu that includes a protein-rich gruel and fruits, particularly avocados.
“This is very secure couple, and the baby is their second one that was born here in Bridgeport,” Dancho said. “The first, Mochilla, was sent to the Alexandria Zoological Park in (Alexandria) Louisiana, and he’s in a breeding program there.”
Zoo staffers also provide the animals with long-dead logs from the forest that are filled with termites and other insects, partly to add to their diet and partly for “enrichment.”
They’re native to the Pampas region of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
“Unfortunately, because of land being cleared for ranching, their natural habitat is disappearing,” Dancho said.
Despite their peaceful comportment, they have been known to inflict deadly wounds in humans and other large mammals.
“Even jaguars know enough to give them a wide berth,” said Dancho, who hopes to to have the little anteater out in public view in three or four weeks.
Still, he said that the mother has been compliant, not putting up a fuss when the baby is taken away for weighing.
“We’re adding to the body of knowledge of anteater development,” Dancho said.
He said that the family isn’t the first for the zoo. Anteaters were hosted by the zoo about 40 years ago.
The baby’s father is E.O. — he’s named after E.O. Wilson, who has written a number of scholarly and general interest books on nature and ants in particular. His 1963 masterpiece, “The Social Biology of Ants,” is considered as one of the most important works in the field.
This is the third baby born to the mother, Pana. He’ll probably remain with her at the zoo for at least a year, Dancho said.