The first time I saw the baby anteaters was through the door of the small clinic of the Zoo of Córdoba.
I just froze. They were one of the most beautiful and weirdest things I’ve ever seen in my life… I wanted to hold them in my arms more than anything else in the world: two baby anteaters.
At that time, I was in a the group in charge of taking care of the black howlers, that I adored as well, but as soon as I got the opportunity to participate in the anteaters’ group, of course I raised my hand, and I could finally live my dream for a few weeks. In the end, I returned to the black howlers’ group; I loved them too much to change for another group of animals.
But those days of taking care of the anteaters were imprinted indelibly on my memories.
They were orphans from north Argentina, perphaps they were made orphans in order to be sold illegally, I’ll never know. They were just a few months old, if they had stayed in the wild, they would have spent most of their time clinging to their mother’s back, blending in with the black patterns on her back and making them look like one animal, a strategy to camouflage the baby from predators, both land and aerial ones.
However, they were in Córdoba with us, so their main objective was to cling tenaciously to my T-shirt with their claws, effortlessly putting holes in it. If they were not clinging onto my T-shirt and between my arms, they were chasing after me so that I lifted them.
Anteaters eat ants and we were always trying to make them pratice by trying to find ants on tree trunks.
But it wasn’t enough so we would prepare a mixture liquid enough, obtained from a blend of liquiefied dog food, fruits and formic acid (found in ants) and the babies would lick the mixture from a dish with their tongue.
Their instinct to seek for ants was so strong that when they were in my arms, they would try and look for ants in my nostrils or my nose, unsuccessfully of course.
I took care of them many times in one of the zoo’s gardens with some other orphan the other zookeepers left in my care from time to time.
Once, I ended up with both anteaters and, a boa constrictor that needed to be hydrated using a syringe, a few days old baby puma and a spider monkey, Khapu, who left the ceiling she was hanging from to come see me. A unforgettable moment.
The babies grew up, different people took care of them, and I like to think that despite the 20 years that have passed, they’re still living in the zoo, trying to get their tongue in all the small holes they would see, as strange as it may seem.
Author: Helena Arroyo
Translation: Noëlla Moussa