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Tiny tamandua baby surprises keepers at ZSL London Zoo

The birth of a baby tamadua is being celebrated at ZSL London Zoo, although the new arrival came as a complete surprise to keepers.

After Tobi the male tamandua moved to the zoo last October as a companion for female Ria,  keepers hoped the pair would go on to produce young one day.

However, just five months later they spotted a tiny baby clinging to Ria’s back. A quick calculation revealed that Ria must have fallen pregnant the same week the pair met, making newcomer Tobi a very fast mover indeed!

The tiny tamandua been named ‘Poco’ and keepers won’t be able to determine whether the baby is a boy or girl until around six months old.  Mum Ria has kept the little one close to her since the Easter Monday birth, tucking the youngster away in a hollow log. Now two-months-old, Poco has started to 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.

The tamandua is part of the anteater family and native to South America. Juveniles 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 and impressively long tongues, which will grow up to 40cm in length and are used to extract tasty insects from inside branches and holes.

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

“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 newborn holding onto her fur.

“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!”

Steve said: “We set up a camera to keep a close eye on the pair, as they’re 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 youngster’s public debut is just in time for Zoo Nights, which runs every Friday throughout June and allows visitors to explore the zoo after-hours, seeing its 19,000 animals in a completely different light.

To find out more about visiting got to www.zsl.org/ZSLZooNights

Image: Baby tamandua Poco practices sticking out its tongue

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