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Happy Val-ANT-ines Day!

PUBLISHED 13/02/23

Happy Val-ant-ines day!

Drusillas hopes for repeat of animal romance success

As people around the world prepare thoughtful and romantic gestures for their loved ones, the team at one Sussex Zoo have been joining the celebrations by setting up a romantic date for a pair of giant anteaters - in the hopes of hearing the pitter patter of tiny claws.

Giant Anteaters, Raya and Pablo, have been paired up at Drusillas Zoo Park since 2020, so with a couple of years under their relationship belt it feels like it may be the right time to start a family - and in an effort to get the pair ‘in the mood’ keepers prepared a special valentines pinata, except rather than the typical sweets and chocolates, it was filled with grubs and bugs – the couple’s favourite meal.

Keepers said that Pablo and Raya are both very sweet and gentle natured, but both very different with Raya preferring romantic activities like snuggles, smooches, and lie ins, whereas Pablo preferrs to start the day with a little play, a good stretch, and a walk. They have become inseparable over their time together; they now always sleep cuddled up together and Pablo will always wait for Raya before starting to eat his food.

Last Valentine’s Day, keepers prepared a silver service dinner for their new capybara couple, which resulted in the birth of the zoo’s first capybara baby in over a decade. To date, Drusillas has never welcomed a baby anteater and despite observing several mating attempts, are yet to see the pregnancy they are hoping for.

Head keeper Gemma Romanis said: “Last year we couldn’t believe that our efforts with the capybaras actually worked, when we worked out the dates between the romantic meal and the birth it seems conception may have actually happened that day!”

“So we are really hoping we’ve unlocked some kind of cupid magical powers and can be successful a second time, so prepared a special date for Pablo and Raya. Anteaters are notoriously difficult to introduce, and there are multiple factors; their size, their claws, their strength, and equally their personalities.”

“Although they were a little unsure of the pinata at first, they soon started tearing into it and the excitement of something new to play with had them galloping around like puppies and we saw lots of ‘flirting’ going on, so fingers crossed we created a little spark for them!”

Giant anteaters are the largest of the anteater species and standing on their hind legs are taller than a grown man. Their famously long noses hide a sticky tongue that can extend 50cm, allowing them to feast on hidden ants and termites, of which they’ll happily eat 30,000 in one day. They typically will only give birth to one offspring at the time, which will cling to its mother’s back for the first six months of its life.

The giant anteater is listed as vulnerable, with only around 5,000 remaining in the wild due to habitat loss, and poaching for fur and bush meat. Many of the animals of Drusillas Park are part of breeding and conservation programmes, managed by studbook keepers. The arrival of a baby would be a small but important boost to the declining population of such a beautiful and unusual animal.

See a video of Pablo and Raya here on our TikTok!


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