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Will love blossom for zoo's new giant anteater, Oso?

Byline: LEAH JONES leah.jones@trinitymirror.com @LEAHPJONES

ARARE giant anteater has arrived at Chester Zoo, as part of a European endangered species breeding programme.

Four-year-old male Oso has moved from a zoo in Cumbria, having been carefully chosen as a perfect match for Chester's resident female, Bliss.

Oso will be slowly introduced to his new companion by the zoo's keepers, after being selected as an ideal genetic pairing. Staff hope the duo will get along famously and produce young in the future.

Curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, Tim Rowlands, said: "Oso is a very important giant anteater as males are scarce in the European breeding programme.

"His genetic make-up is vital to the future conservation breeding of the species and hopefully, in time, he'll hit it off with Bliss and they'll go on to have pups."

Giant anteaters, which are native to Central and South America, are classed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They are threatened on both continents, where much of the grassland they depend on to survive has been destroyed.

In some areas of Brazil, where they once roamed freely, there are now none left. Now, research supported by the zoo points to another major factor in the demise of giant anteaters - road deaths.

The zoo's field conservation manager, Cat Barton, explains: "Few long-term studies of giant anteaters have ever been carried out, making effective conservation actions for these unique-looking animals very difficult.

"Through a project titled Anteaters and Highways, our partners in Brazil are carrying out vital research to assess the impact of road deaths on giant anteaters over thousands of miles of roads.

"Such a high number of roadkills have been recorded that it's now presumed one of the main threats to the species after habitat loss.

"In many areas, there are negative superstitions about them, all of which affect their survival.

"Our work with the giant anteaters at the zoo and our support for conservation projects in the wild are critical to understanding more about this wonderful animal and to protecting future generations."

Despite its size, the giant anteater feeds mostly on tiny insects and can devour up to 30,000 ants or termites in a day.

This specific diet has seen it evolve to become one of only two mammals without any teeth, instead using its sticky tongue to feed.

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? It is hoped love will blossom between Oso and the zoo's resident female, Bliss

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Publication:Chester Chronicle (Chester, England)
Date:Mar 8, 2018
Words:413
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