Baby anteater debuts at Brookfield Zoo

BROOKFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Sometimes raising children can be a real pain in the back, but for a giant anteater out at Brookfield Zoo, it's a real pain on the back. Anteaters are one of the few mammals that carry their babies like a backpack.

In Brookfield Zoo's Tropic World: South America - the same space as the golden tamarin monkeys and the squirrel monkeys - there's a birth announcement. No, not a baby monkey - it's a baby giant anteater. You have to look closely through branches and bridges, but there she is: a baby born two months ago and her mom Tulum. The nameless baby always along for the back ride.

It's fairly difficult to get a good look at Tulum and her baby because they live down in the bottom of this rain forest. But you are in luck, because we brought the Channel 7 Eyewitness News anteater cam. Zoo officials allowed our cameraman right down on the exhibit floor for some nice close-up shots, and unless you have ants in your pants, apparently there is no danger.

"Baby rides on the back from Day One. Once they're born mom will extend a back leg. Baby climbs up using the back leg and the tail will get onto the mom's back," said Craig Demitros.

Only when feeding and sleeping does baby give mom a rest. They are called giant because anteaters grow up to seven feet in length. Right now, the baby female weighs only about ten pounds, but that's going to change.

"She'll ride on mom until six or seven months and at that time shell be roughly three quarters of the size of mom so it's load to carry," Demitros said. "By then mom is encouraging baby to be on her own."

In the wild they use their long tongues to eat ants and termites. Here, they eat a similar manmade mixture - and Tulum's favorite - avocado.

"A little guacamole. Everybody loves it. No chips though," Demitros said.

Mom and baby are on exhibit at Brookfield Zoo Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
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