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A surprise baby at ZSL London Zoo

 The nocturnal mammals (Tamandua tetradactyla), part of the anteater family and native to South America, are impressive climbers - holding on to mum will enable the infant to build up the valuable muscles needed to climb easily through the tree-top branches of London’s only living rainforest.  

When Tobi the tamandua moved to ZSL London Zoo October last year, as a companion for the female Ria, keepers had hoped that someday they would hear the pitter patter of tiny tamandua toes on the ground.

So, they were overjoyed when just five months after Tobi joined they spotted a tiny baby clinging to Ria’s back, making newcomer Tobi a very fast mover as when keepers did the maths they discovered that Ria must have fallen pregnant the same week they met.

ZSL keeper Steve Goodwin said: “Ria went into her nest box that morning, which isn’t unusual as tamanduas are night animals and often nap during the day.

“We were confident Ria was pregnant as she’d just started to put on some weight, but we weren’t expecting to welcome a new member of the family quite so soon. They must have got together pretty much on their very first date – Tobi clearly pulled out all the stops!”

 “But at around 5pm, as the sun began to set, she amazed us all when she came outside for her evening explorations with a tiny new-born holding onto her fur.

Ria has kept the baby (nick-named ‘Poco’ by the keepers) close to her since the Easter Monday birth, tucking the youngster away in a hollow log. However, the two-month-old has now started to cautiously venture away from mum to explore its Rainforest Life home, which the tamanduas share with two-toed sloths Marilyn, Leander and baby Lento, Emperor tamarins, red titi monkeys and fruit bats as well.

Steve said: “We set up a camera to keep a close eye on the pair, due to them being most active at night: we’ve been delighted to see the youngster peeking its head out of the tree stump at after dark, and now Ria is confident enough to carry her around the exhibit visitors will be able to spot the pair - especially at our Zoo Nights events this summer.”

The baby has also been spotted practising sticking out its long tongue, which will grow up to 40cm in length and is used to extract scrumptious insects from inside branches and holes.

Juvenile tamanduas spend the first three months clinging to their mother’s backs, sliding down to feed before pulling themselves back up to nestle into mum’s fur. They have fantastic camouflage as their distinguishable matching patterns align to create one continuous stripe, allowing the young pup to avoid the eyes of predators.  

Keepers won’t know the youngster’s sex until it is scanned by vets, as the baby will remain close to mum until around six-months-old. Boy or girl, the new-born is a valuable addition to its species and once its sex is confirmed, its details will be added to the European Studbook (ESB), part of a coordinated breeding programme for tamanduas.

The youngster’s public debut is just in time for the Zoo’s first Zoo Nights event tomorrow (Friday 1 June) –every Friday throughout June visitors will be able to explore the Zoo after-hours, seeing its 19,000 animals in a completely different light.

See the Zoo come alive after dark at Zoo Nights this summer - to book tickets or find out more visit www.zsl.org/ZSLZooNights

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