Providence, RI –Zookeepers in Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Tropical America House had an exciting start to their work day when they arrived on Thursday, April 5th: Corndog, the Zoo’s female giant anteater, had delivered her baby earlier that morning. Zoo veterinarians confirmed Corndog’s pregnancy in January and were able to monitor the baby’s development with weekly ultrasound exams. They anticipated she would deliver sometime in the first half of April.
Zoo visitors since the 5th will have noticed that the anteaters were not on exhibit (Johei, the father, was moved to an off exhibit area the last week in March in anticipation of the birth). Access to the holding area windows, where visitors usually can get a good look inside, was set back with stanchions to provide some privacy for the first time mother. “We wanted to make sure Corndog and her baby had a quiet environment so they could bond well,” said Tim French, the Zoo’s Animal Program Director. “We’re very pleased with the way things are progressing. The newborn weighed in at 2.75 pounds five days after birth. Except for a minor umbilical area infection which keepers are tending to daily, the baby, a female, is doing very well.” The first six months of life can be very challenging for baby anteaters, so animal care staff will be watching over their charges especially closely for the next several months.
Starting today the stanchions at the viewing windows have been removed. By next week the doors to the outside enclosure will be left open, when the weather permits, so Corndog can choose to go outside with her baby for some fresh air whenever she likes. If she does, visitors will likely be able to see the baby clinging to the fur on her mother’s back. Giant anteater babies, which typically are weaned at 6 months, spend most of their first year of life carried on their mother’s back. The first six months of life can be very challenging for baby anteaters, so animal care staff will be watching over their charges especially closely for the next several months. Zookeepers have named the baby Inara, which is of Arab origin and means “ray of light” or “heaven sent.” In Middle Eastern mythology, Inara was a goddess of wild animals.
Corndog was born in January 2006 at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California, and came to Roger Williams Park Zoo last year from the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana. The father, Johei, was born in 2006 at the San Diego Zoo and was the first resident in the Zoo’s giant anteater exhibit which was completed in 2007 with support from Janci Foundation. He also sired the female anteater, Tullah, who was born at the Zoo in 2010; her mother, Talara, died from a preexisting medical condition about 8 weeks after giving birth. Tullah was hand reared by Zookeepers and went to the zoo in Palm Beach, Florida last spring.
Corndog was selected to come to Roger Williams Park Zoo to be bred with Johei based on recommendations made by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Giant anteaters, native to grassland and lowland tropical forests in Central and South America, are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN due to loss of habitat and hunting. It is estimated that only 5,000 animals remain in the wild. Giant anteaters have a sense of smell that is 40 times as powerful as a human’s to help them locate ant colonies. They use their 4 inch long claws to rip open termite mounds and their 2 foot long tongues move up to 150 times per minute as they each consume up to 35,000 termites and ants per day.
Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of the oldest in the nation, is Rhode Island’s number one outdoor family and tourist attraction and is also a leader in conservation efforts undertaken by a zoo of its size. The Zoo has received numerous awards for conservation work done both around the globe and in local habitats as well, caring for species that, without human intervention, would face certain extinction. Roger Williams Park Zoo is supported and maintained by the Rhode Island Zoological Society and is owned by the City of Providence.