“This is extremely rare. As far as I know it’s never happened in Sweden before,” Parken Zoo’s chief zoologist Helena Olsson told The Local.
Olsson explained that zookeepers happened to be on hand when the mother anteater, Benita, gave birth on December 23rd.
“The mother and father were in the same cage and the zookeepers saw blood and became worried,” said Olsson.
After separating Benita from her mate Rozinski, zookeepers once again turne their attention to the female anteater.
“And suddenly she just pushed the newborn out right before their eyes.”
The stunned zookeepers were given more reason to worry when they then saw Benita stand by her newborn son and scratch him with her claws. But a little further investigation revealed that nothing was wrong.
“Benita was simply cleaning her son by carefully removing the amniotic membrane from her his body,” said Olsson.
The nearly two-year-old Benita came to Parken Zoo from Berlin last spring in hopes she would mate with Rozinski, the park’s male giant anteater, which arrived in Eskilstuna in October 2009.
According to Olsson, the pair took an immediate liking to one another.
“They started to pal around as soon as they were put together,” she said.
Found in the wild in Central and South America, the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) feeds mainly on ants and termites and can eat up to 30,000 insects a day.
Benita and Rozinski and their yet-to-named son are the only anteaters in Sweden, according to Olsson, who added that, there aren’t many anteaters in captivity elsewhere in the world.
“That’s what makes this so special. It’s rare enough to have an anteater in your zoo, but a birth is even less common,” she said.
Parken Zoo was also the site of the birth of a rare tapir in July 2010. And back in June 2009, the zoo’s 40-year-old gibbon gave birth of a healthy baby in what was described as a “miracle birth”, as zookeepers had previously thought the mother was dying.
Nevertheless, Olsson described the birth of the giant anteater as “better than the rest”, adding that the youngster appears healthy and vibrant.
“He’s doing well, climbing on his mother’s back as he should,” she said.