THE FIRST EVENING MEAL ON MY RECENT WILD IMAGES TOUR WAS INTERRUPTED BY NEWS OF A 'TAMANDUA BANDEIRA' (i.e. a Giant Anteater (!)) nearby. We all rushed out and enjoyed a show-stopping night-time encounter with this amazing creature, which usually rests up during the day and goes foraging for termites at night. This particular individual is a regular visitor to the lodge grounds at the lovely Pouso Alegre and has been fed (raw eggs among other things) by lodge staff here for some time. It is therefore very tame and relaxed around people. Nevertheless it was worth reminding ourselves that these ostensibly peaceful animals have been known to kill people with their incredibly powerful bear-like claws so we were sure to leave it some space where possible! Giant Anteaters have very poor eyesight and encounters can sometimes be very close indeed, as this one was. Some of the horses in the same paddock as the anteater, bolted past in the dark but the anteater was unfazed and continued on its way. We returned to the dining room to pick up where we had left off (I was just about to give a talk about photographing Giant Anteaters among other things - bolting horse sprang to mind again). It was getting late now and time for bed and as we headed to our rooms the anteater sauntered past.
The following day we were returning to the lodge and paused to photograph a Jabiru feeding on small crabs in a roadside pool when the anteater was spotted again, this time in broad daylight, wandering towards the lodge grounds. We were able to catch up with it easily, they never seem to go anywhere in a hurry and enjoyed some more point blank views. We were able to photograph against a variety of backgrounds, including plenty of non-manmade as well as man-made ones before it made its way back into the forest. Maybe the overcast sky of the cold front had done us a favour after all as they usually rest in the shade on sunny days.
There are at least one million interesting facts about Giant Anteaters. Here are just a few. For a start it has a very low body temperature for a mammal of only 33 degrees Celsius. Its bear-like claws, used for breaking into termite nests are so long that it has to walk on its knuckles. Its sense of smell is 40 times more sensitive than us and its tongue is so long it is anchored to its sternum and can reach 45cm beyond its mouth! It cannot produce stomach acid of its own but used the formic acid of its prey to aid digestion. I didn’t even mention the extraordinary shape of its head yet. What an incredible creature!