An Anteater Named Teddy

Even as a pet, his single interest was in ants, and he never quite got used to a tame chimpanzee.

anteater and lamb

Teddy went to investigate the newly acquired lamb and licked it with his long tongue.

Lilo Hess

An anteater has only one baby at a time. That was about all I could find out about anteaters, except that they can be kept fairly well in captivity on a diet of eggs and milk. They were said to be dull-witted, slow-moving animals.

Well, there was nothing slow-moving about the way my anteater struck at the little chimp. When I tried to touch him, he lifted his foreleg to strike at me, too. So, after giving him some food, I retreated with the chimp to let him settle down and get used to his new surroundings and to us.

I had put a box on its side in his cage and filled it with hay to serve as a sleeping place. The first thing he did was to sweep out all the hay with his claws. After he was well rid of his bedding, he curled up in the box for a long sleep. He slept all the rest of the first day, and the night. The next morning he was much more at ease and came out to eat his food and let me pet him. His front leg would rise ready to strike, but it remained only a gesture. He never quite lost this habit, even though he never really struck. It was like a reflex action.

We named our anteater Teddy. He adjusted very rapidly. I had put a collar around his middle, which he kept on always and did not mind at all. When the weather was nice, he moved outside. He liked best to be tied to a tree in the grass.

There he could search for ants all day long—a search that was his whole life.He never stopped. He preferred the tiny black ants to the red ones; and he especially went for the eggs and larvae. There is a big anthill not far from the house; and when he was put near it, he got very excited. He ripped a hole in it with his claws and stuck his nose into it. He ate some, but after a little while he turned away, without opening the hill all the way. Those were red ants and did not suit him too well.

He did better with the nests of the small black ants he found under rocks and in the grass. With amazing accuracy he could detect those nests; he must have smelled them. When he found such a nest, his nose would twitch, and he would make a snorting noise and get very excited. He could turn over big, heavy rocks. He would run his long tongue inside the tunnels, and one could not see how many he ate. But sometimes he would push a rock away and find a nest that was well exposed, and I could see that he picked out the larvae and eggs first and then concentrated on the ants. He was only interested in ant colonies and never attacked scattered ones. Since many ants ran away when he disturbed their nest, he never consumed an entire colony.

He ate quite a bit of soil in his quest for ants. One day he found a nest under some pine trees, where the floor was thick with fallen needles. As he ran his tongue in and out of the tunnels, he picked up a lot of needles. They stuck to his tongue and nose and disappeared into his mouth. He was none the worse for this.

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