Potter Park Zoo Welcomes Giant Anteater

photo of a Giant Anteater walking towards the camera.

Potter Park Zoo is pleased to announce a new resident. Wayne, a male giant anteater, came to Lansing from San Francisco Zoo in California and is now on exhibit.

“The giant anteater is a new species for Potter Park Zoo and we are excited for our visitors to have the opportunity to learn about this species,” said Cynthia Wagner Potter Park Zoo Director. “Wayne has quickly become a staff favorite and we know he will be a favorite for zoo visitors too.”

It is estimated that only 5,000 giant anteaters remain in the wild. Giant anteaters are considered a threatened species overall though in some areas they previously inhabited they are now extinct; they are hunted for food, hit by cars and driven out of habitat or burned in fires as land is converted for farming. Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), like Potter Park Zoo, are working with giant anteaters to maintain an assurance population and to support conservation programs in their home range.

Giant anteaters, ranging from 60-90 pounds, are the largest of the four anteater species. They can be found in tropical forest, savannah and grasslands areas from Honduras in Central America to Bolivia in South America.

Anteaters are a unique species with adaptions that allow them to eat ants and termites. They have no teeth, but instead have a two foot long specialized tongue which allows them to easily slurp up to 30,000 ants and termites every day. Their sense of smell is up to 40 times more powerful than humans.

Potter Park Zoo has a special connection with giant anteaters as Dr. Sally Nofs, Director of Animal Health, has been the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) Veterinary Advisor for this species for several years. As veterinary advisor she is contacted by zoos around the country and internationally about anteater health. She also is affiliated with Project Anteater Brazil (Projeto Tamandua Brasil) a conservation project working to support all Xenarthran species (anteaters, sloths and armadillo) in Brazil.

“I am excited for our zoo and community to get to know this amazing and truly unique species of animal that holds a special place in my heart. The AZA Giant Anteater SSP also needed a place for Wayne to call home so his placement with us is a win-win situation,” said Dr. Sally.

Over 350 animals call Potter Park Zoo home, including critically endangered black rhinos, Amur tigers, eastern bongos and endangered red pandas, spider monkeys, and snow leopard. The zoo is located in Lansing, Michigan.