Among the amazing species we see are the nearly extinct Giant Anteaters. The name “Pantanal” comes from the Portuguese word pântano, meaning wetland, bog, swamp or marsh. The Pantanal is a tropical wetland and the world’s largest wetland of any kind. It lies mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul but extends into portions of Bolivia and Paraguay. 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing an astonishing biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping support a dense array of animal species.
The Giant Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla, is the largest species of anteater and the only species in the genus Myrmecophaga. It is found in Central and South America from Honduras to northern Argentina. Its fossil remains have been found as far north as northwestern Sonora, Mexico. It is a solitary animal, found in many habitats, including grasslands, deciduous forests and rainforests.
It feeds mainly on ants and termites, sometimes up to 30,000 insects in a single day. The giant anteater is one of few taxa of mammals without any teeth even in a mature state. An anteater instead crushes insects it consumes using hard growths found on the inside of its mouth, and its flabby stomach. It grows to a size of up to 7 feet (2.1 m) in length, with a 4-foot-long (1.2 m) head and torso, and a 3-foot-long (0.91 m) tail. Generally it weighs from 65 to 140 pounds (29 to 64 kg). These anteaters are have a very keen sense of smell, used to locate ants, but are thought to have poor sight and hearing.
Habitat destruction is the primary threat to giant anteaters. They are listed as Appendix II by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Appendix II is defined as a species not necessarily threatened to extinction but one that should be controlled in trade to avoid overuse. They are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). ‘Vulnerable’ is defined as an estimated population reduction of 20% in the next 10 years. It is estimated that there are only as few as 5,000 left in the wild, and only 90 live in zoos across the United States.
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