Saturday, August 7, 2010

Giant Anteater Revealed (more or less)


One of my favorite quotes from my mother is, “You’ve seen aardvarks, right? They don’t look as if they come from the same animal.”

The best part of this is that I have no recollection of the context for this line, or whether in fact there was any context for it. (That’s one of the reasons why I so enjoy conversations with my parents.) –But the point is, it’s true: looking at an anteater, aka an aardvark, you get the impression that the leftovers from several different kinds of animals have been hastily assembled into a large mammal that walks on its knuckles and eats insects. It’s great.

The zoo has only recently (re)opened the giant anteater enclosure for viewing—or at least, I think that’s true; it’s tucked away in a corner past the lemurs, and I’ve grown so used to seeing nothing but construction signs over there that it may have been a while before I noticed the sign up saying “GIANT ANTEATER”, with an arrow leading you to them. I was thrilled, even if the first time I saw one of them it was curled up, asleep, and for the longest time wouldn’t even reveal its aristocratic nose to me or to the women who were doing aerobics against the railing of its enclosure (maybe watching all that exercise had tired it out).


[The anteater sticks its nose out.
I'm not completely sure about which parts
of its anatomy are which beyond the head;
maybe all the hanging fur is its tail?]

I’ve gotten to see the anteaters twice now, once in the company of my partner and a visiting friend, and I look forward to spending a lot more time observing them and obsessively taking pictures of them—sometime when I’m not with people who give me gentle hints like, “Are we moving on yet? It’s really hot.”

We did learn an exciting fact about them, thanks to the placard outside their enclosure: apparently anteaters can run at speeds of 30 mph when they want to. I’m not sure when they’d want to—chasing really fast ants, for example?—but we were all quite impressed.


[Is that why this anteater
has a racing stripe?]

And we did see a really interesting zoo sign, posted on the staff-only gate around the side of the exhibit:


First off, I love the line break in “Radio Giant Anteater/ Keeper”; for a moment you really are convinced that anyone entering has to radio the anteaters to let them know. But also, it’s made me wonder just what the anteaters do when they’re startled, and whether there was an incident that both provided the zookeepers with information on the speed of running anteaters and prompted this warning sign.

1 comment:

Anca said...

This post made me fall off the chair laughing. I do think the anteater nose and mine are quite similar, so I have some affection for the critter.

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