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Care Sheet - Tamandua
Tamandua Tetradactyla Care Sheet
The Tamandua, sometimes referred to as the ant bear, is a medium sized anteater. They weight about 7-19 pounds and are about 2 feet long not counting the tail. The tail is roughly another foot in length and is prehensile. Most are about the size of a large house cat or small dog. The standard coloring is tan with a black vest and is why they are often referred to as collard anteaters. However they also come in all blond, all black, all tan, gray and with faded vests when present. The color varies based on the region they live in the wild. The actual collared anteaters are hard to find now and most in captivity are non-vested or only partly vested.
Though considered arboreal it will spend time on the ground looking for termite mounds and traveling, unlike it's close cousin the pygmy or silky anteater (Cyclopes didactlus) who is strictly arboreal or the Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) who is fully terrestrial. Some even live in the savannahs where there are few trees. Unfortunately because it will travel on the ground this leads to the most common sighting of tamanduas in the wild by the side of the road, hit by car. Considered a nuisance animal in their native lands they are also hunted for the tendons in their tails to make rope. They are also killed on site as many consider them a threat because they have been known to kill dogs.
In the wild they eat mostly termites ants and some fruits but avoid any ants that have strong chemicals like fire ants. They have been known to raid bee hives in the wild. They love honey and sweets but may well eat the bee larvae too. I often see it mentioned a person wants a tamandua or other anteater because they have ants. Tamanduas are not an effective form of pest control though some natives are said keep them for that reason. First they will not eat the more troublesome ants like fire ants and much prefer to avoid the warrior ants. They also do not destroy any termite mounds they do feed from in the wild. Instead they eat from many nests always leaving enough behind for the nest to recover, making them a primitive sort of ant farmer. Though not tending the crop of ants they only harvest what they need and leave the rest to continue to grow. Also tamanduas held in captivity who were offered termite mounds from their native habitats fared quite poorly.(1) Many wont eat the ants and termites native to north America and only want those from south America. So anyone hoping to get an anteater to control their ants should not be thinking about getting one of these lovely creatures but instead call an exterminator.
When I first began looking for information on keeping Tamanduas in captivity very little information was readily available. I have a great love for these animals however so did not let this apparent road block stop me. I have talked with handlers, private owners, zoo vets and keepers and stud book keepers. I also managed to get my hands on several articles and studies on tamanduas and giant anteaters who have very similar requirements and health issues. I gained a great deal of knowledge about the care of these animals but also sadly realized many who already had these animals were not informed of how to properly care for them. This was not due to the owners not caring or trying to do right by them but simply a lack of readily available information like I myself was confronted with. The worst case I have come across was a business who regularly dealt with exotics. they were experienced and caring but when they acquired their tamandua believed the seller when he told them to feed it rotten eggs. The result was a very sickly animal that died very prematurely. Other problems are not so sever. Some seek answers but often seemingly small things like chronic loose and excessively smelly stools are all to often excepted as normal or unavoidable by owners. This is not the case however and many of the most common problems can be resolved with a proper diet. Seeing the need for a good easy to find source of information on captive tamandua husbandry I felt obliged to try and help with this care sheet.
Based on the stomach contents of wild Tamanduas their diet consists of about 51% crude protein, 11% fat, 14%ash(minerals) and 4.58 kcal/g (caloric content) on a dry matter basis(2). Thus it is said they have similar dietary needs to that of an obligate carnivore like a cat and in fact need taurine like a cat does for a healthy heart. They are hemophiliacs so need High vitamin K in their diets to aid in clotting. High B12 also helps and low E is a good idea. They also require a good source of Potassium. The most common diet is equal parts Leaf-Eater and cat food. The leaf-eater is high in Vitamin K and fiber to help maintain fecal consistency. Some feed higher Leaf eater than cat food ratio. Though animals do well enough on this diet I do not believe it is truly complete and is used more for convenience. The older diets that include meat may not be to the best interest of the animal either as they have been known to get Salmonella or choke to death when fibrous tissues from the meat becomes entangled around the tongue(3).
While some anteaters can be gluttons and highly food motivated some are hard to get eating when newly acquired. They usually love the flavor of milk so a kitten milk replacer can be used for flavor. Honey may also help. We tried anything and everything we could think of. The mixture ours finally ate was milk replacer, baby cereal, powdered oat meal, yogurt, honey, and sugar. If yours wont eat you need to try anything and then wean them onto a healthier diet once they are excepting something. A good dealer will make sure yours is healthy and eating before you get it but you need to be prepared. Some remain picky.
simple easy diet
2 cups powdered dry cat food
1/2 cup flax seed meal
1/2 cup red beans powdered
1/4 cup dehydrated frozen spinach
Grind all in coffee grinder remove anything that doesn't powder small.
Mix with water when ready to serve.
a bit of oil once a week mixed for skin and extra calories if needed
KMR kitten milk powder to taste
The simple diet is convenient to have and should be nutritionally complete based on the analysis of all ingredients compared to wild diet and K content of leafeater. But mine not only likes the fresh frozen diet better it gives her much nicer stools and she seems all around healthier when on it or a mix of the two.
1 pounds bananas (feed without skin)
1 pound tomatoes
1 pound fruit, oranges, kiwi, berries any acidic fruit is preferred
2 boiled eggs
2 pounds feeder insects such as meal worms, crickets and silk worms, ect. (got 5,000 meal worms and 250 wax worms for about $20 and is about 2 pounds)
1 pound chicken or turkey breast boiled
1 pound boiled liver
1 pound fresh cooked shrimp (pulverized equivalent of 4oz dried shrimp)
1/4 cup bone meal powder
1 cup flax seed meal
1 cup dried red beans ground to powder
2 pkgs frozen spinach(10oz or about 4 & 1/2 cups)
7-15 teaspoons blue green algae, cell tech animal algae (based on size of
Blend all in food precessor with fish/shrimp/chicken water then run through a berry strainer (metal cone with holes and pestle to push liquid through). Reblend the remainder then restrain at least twice should only be a couple cups of waist. The waist should be small enough it could be eaten but mine was always leaving the small bits at the bottom so strain it now so all will be lapped up and it's safer if using chicken or liver in case of sinew.
add digestive enzymes and probiotics at each meal
a spoonfull of vinegar to aid digestion
All blended up as fine as can be done give about a half pound twice a day. Once in the morning around 9-10am or close to sunrise as possible and once in the afternoon close to sunset they tend to eat more in the afternoon so maybe split the pound out a little less in the morning and a bit more for the afternoon feeding. Mine has taken to only eating in the evenings though she ate several small meals through the day at first. This recipe will last about a month for one animal so freeze all extra for later feedings. Do not leave out for more than two hours after feeding. To leave out longer use a freezer mug to keep it cool longer.
Reasons behind some of the ingredients
Bananas are important for the potassium.
Tomatoes are important for the vitamin K and the acid content. Without enough vitamin K they are hemophiliacs, bleeding without clotting from any cut or spontaneous bleeding from nose or genitalia. Tamanduas do not have the stomach acids of other mammals and in the wild rely on the acid in the ants they eat to help them digest their food so tomatoes also help with that.
Spinach is very high in Vitamine K so can not be left out of these diet without supplementing another way.
Eggs are a good source of complete protein but they must be fed cooked as tamanduas are susceptible to salmonella. I've replaced raw meat with feeder insects. It's more expensive but better for them.
Insects: Raw meat can give them intestinal parasites, bacterial infections, and possibly kill them if sinew gets tangled around their tongue. If bought in bulk some insects will work out to only a dollar a day in the amount of insects fed. And it's just a good idea for some insects to be in the diet of an insectivore mammal.
The cat food if used should be a natural brand without chemicals and low amounts of grain. They have very sensitive systems and you want to limit their exposure to chemicals so avoid chemical preservatives in the cat food.
The bone meal is important for their calcium intake but will also help them have firmer stool.
Flaxseed is for Fiber they need high fiber and flax seed is healthy but does get a bit gooey when ground and water added so don't want to over do flax That's why the red beans.
Red beans are higher in fiber than flax and they do not gum up.
Liver is High in vitamin B12 which can help with hemophilia
Treats can include melons whole sliced or mashed. Many love breaking apart the melons themselves for an enrichment activity. They then claw it to mush and lick it up. Other treats given include oranges, avocado (I would be cautious with it as it can be bad for dogs but it's given commonly to anteaters), banana, crickets, yogurt, mealworms, apple sauce, grapes, pumpkin, ants, termites, cucumber, grapefruit, papaya, baby food, honey, tomato, coconut, apple whole or sliced, molasses, frozen treats, and fruits and feeder insects. Mine loved KMR milk and will take meds mixed in this if needed. I also occasionally trap termites for her to eat out of the woods and she finds ant nests for herself on walks. sometimes she will take crickets if ground up for her and likes honey in a kong toy.
Housing of tamanduas varies widely. From fancy enclosures of 100'x100' to kennels in the home of 2x3x6 and free roam of the home during the day. I feel a minimum of 4x4x6 for one if they get free roam when awake. However they are housed they need things to climb on and some exercise. They need room to roam as well. mine loves to explore and gets weekly walks on woodland trails when weather allows. They need warm constant temperatures so if the enclosure is outside they need a portion of it enclosed and protected from the elements. Ideal temps for health is 65-80. The heat should never drop below 58f in the indoor portion and they should not be allowed outside on days with frost advisories in effect. Ideal temps for health is 65-80. They should be kept at temps below 90f. If temps reach or exceed 90f then measures should be taken to keep the animal cool. Be sure there are no sharp edges on the caging or objects present in it for them to cut themselves on. They need den boxes or covered housing of some sort even hollowed out logs are appreciated. They need heat weather in the form of a heating pad or a heat lamp. Two tamanduas must have separate indoor housing as they are territorial and it is very common for them to harm one another when kept together. supervised day time interaction is usually considered safe. Mine loves a pouched hammock I made her she took to it the first night. Branches shelves and other layers for climbing on are important. Try to avoid wood walls directly to the outside of their enclosures as some have been known to claw their way out.
Health and life span
Healthy Tamanduas are thought to have a captive lifespan of about 9-11yrs. Tamandua mexican has a lifespan of 16 so tamandua tetradactyla could well be similar with real quality care as the info on life span is limited and based on cases before care and diet were improved with studies. Their normal temp is about 93.6F give or take a little. Tamanduas generally respond well to canine medications when needed. Try to find a good vet that can get inflo from a zoo vet. There are some medicinces like certain antibiotics that should not be given.
Health problems include but are not limited too; abscesses, wounds that don't heal, bleeding, intestinal parasites, External parasites, ringworm, a condition called anteater pox that they usually recover from with no lasting effects and is not zoonic, respiratory conditions from nasal discharge to pneumonia, eye infections and irritations, heart problems, lethargy, kidney and liver disease, strokes, seizures, weight issues from obesity to anorexia, dry skin, dehydration, ear infections, mites, fleas, fungal infections, salmonella and other bacterial infections, intestinal obstructions, and foreign matter wrapped around the tongue.
A proper diet , good hygiene, and a warm constant temperature of about 75f will help in the prevention of many of these concerns. Tamanduas are usually tolerant of bathing and grooming. It is possible and sometimes necessary to trim nails with dog nail clippers. They use their claws as fingers and if they get to long it impairs the use. Just be cautious not to cut to deep. It's best to just take the tip regularly as needed rather than wait and have to trim a bunch which could be traumatic and stressful. Filing to a a dull point after cutting as also advised if she doesn't stress about it.
Bathing is usualy tolerated and can be given a bath as needed monthly to every two weeks. In between bathing if not provided a pool they can be misted with a squirt bottle and let them groom the water out. Moisture is good for their skin. You may need to apply lotion, baby oil gel works well, to tails feet and sometimes the ears.
Most tamanduas love to tear things apart. Boxes, paper bags, or pinatas with treats inside are commonly considered great fun. Some might claw holes in your walls so providing appropriate things to destroy is a good idea. They also enjoy rotten logs.
A ball with a rattle inside might be tossed about and clawed. Other cat toys may be appropriate as well. Mine likes rubber dog toys and rubber boots some give them old shoes.
Swings and hammocks are sometimes considered fun.
Ropes to walk across and hang from are good.
Insects and other treats can be use, see diet.
For an indoor tamandua a cat tree would be good. Mine does enjoy the cat condo from time to time.
those housed in out door enclosures will appreciate tree limbs or jungle gyms with shelves for rest.
Some tamanduas are taken for walks on lead and harness.
Tame tamanduas enjoy wrestling and play fights with their caretakers and petting and cuddling.
They are good swimmers and like water so a child's wading pool on warm days would be good. Not all enjoy getting in water mine loves going to the river but usually avoids getting wet but if heated up she has waded in.
They have a great sense of smell so using different scents about their environment could interest them and encourage them to move about.
Durable toys with holes for their tongues to explore are good items especially with hidden treats inside, consider the Kong toys with a bit of honey.
The first thing one must know if they choose to breed these animals is what sex their animals are. How to tell the difference was one of the hardest thing for me to find out. People kept telling me that you can't tell but you can. I talked with a zoo vet that works with a large population of tamanduas and he explained it to me. It appears there is no difference on the surface since the males gonads are internal and their sexual organs are small. It's relatively simple however to tell the difference. When you look at the openings of their external sexual parts there is a marked difference. The male's opening will be a Y like opening and the females an I like opening. Well that's what he said. My Girl is like an I or strait line but at the tip is a bit of extra flesh like a clitoris almost make it look a small Y so close inspection is needed if you don't have experience. If you've seen both in person it should be easier
All tamanduas should be kept separated when unsupervised as they are very territorial and the most common health concern in zoo tamanduas is injury from other tamanduas. The male and female should be introduced slowly and only left together in neutral territory during the day. Mating generally takes place in the fall but could occur at any time. Females cycle about every month and a half. There may be some spotting but care should be taken not to confuse this with a bleed out. Try keeping a log of when spotting occures and have the vet look at a sample. Other signs are restlessness and genital licking. Their gestation is about 150 days on average. Females will need a private den like place to give birth. All other tamanduas should be kept away from mother and young. Females give birth to one young at a time. Rarely twins are born but the mother tamandua can not care for more than one young at a time so one will be rejected. In the case of twins at least one young should be removed and bottled and the other watched closely. Rarely twins have been left with mom and survived with supplemental feeding of both but this would never happen in the wild and it's more common for mom to reject one or even both so it is risky to try leaving both with mom.
Baby tamanduas can be successfully bottle raised with kitten milk replacer. Other than the event of twins or other problem such as mother rejecting them I do not recommend pulling the young and bottle raising them. Even wild caught tamanduas tame down well and as long as they are handled regularly babies raised in captivity will be tame and loving to their owner. There is no need to pull and bottle. Tamanduas have a very specialized diet in the wild and it has been difficult to get a decent diet formulated for adults in captivity. We do not have a milk formula made for them. Kitten milk works but we don't know what vital things may be missing that will cause problems for them later in life due to missing out as babies. We do not know if there may be to much of something or other imbalances. For this reason since they will be tame anyway I truly feel they should not be pulled until strong, healthy and eating at least some food mix diet barring other reasons that may necessitate it. This means baby should stay with mom till 6-12 months of age.
Tamanduas are hard to come by, hard to care for, but very rewarding and special. They can make very loving pets when raised from a young age with people. Even wild caught have become quite sociable with people given enough proper handling. Down sides are smell. Tamanduas do not have a noticeable odor under normal circumstances but their pee does smell skunky similar to a ferret. Most choose one place to pee and one place to poop and stick to it. Mine trained relatively well to pee pads but it did take some time and a few accidents. She had many places she chose to go but have narrowed it down to two outside her cage. Mine isn't destructive but some can be. mine is gentle but most say theirs don't learn to play with gentle claws. Please learn all you can aout the good and the bad before getting an anteater.
For further info please join our group that discusses these animals and their close relations http://groups.yahoo.com/group/xenarthra_keepers/
Or contact me through my Blog http://taqmanduagirl.blogspot.com/
References 1. Formulating Diets for Tamandua, A. Ward, S. Crissy, K. Cassaro, E. Frank 2. Nutrition of the Tamandua, S Oyarzun, G. Crawshaw, and E. Valdes 3. Health survey, S. Morford and M. Meyers.