To work towards the conservation of anteaters in Brazil
Anteaters are a small group of unique mammals inhabiting the Neotropics. Despite their great visual appeal, their long lifecycle and their anatomical and physiological peculiarities, these fascinating creatures have not received due attention from scientific researchers and many aspects of their bio-ecology remain unknown. Anteaters play a significant role in the maintenance and working of ecosystems and help maintain habitat heterogeneity by keeping insect populations in check. Anteaters, even at reduced population densities, may prey significantly on insects, consuming an average of some kilos of ants and termites per day. They forage in different areas and seem to play an important role in dispersion of the deep, mineral-rich soil used by termites. Another of their important ecological roles is serving as food for top predators like the large cats. Thus, the drastic decline in their populations may trigger a process of ecological collapse, compromising long-term ecosystem integrity.
Since giant anteaters have a low reproduction potential, prolonged parental care, a long gestation period and a single offspring per year, threats that affect breeding success may cause great population decline. Many giant anteaters are being found dead in the southern Pantanal without clear cause of death. Environmentalists suspect that the animals are being poisoned by formicides used in soy crops. The vulnerability of this iconic landscape species and its marked disappearance from certain areas, including its original range, provide evidence for the need for measures ensuring its protection. As diseases are recognisably the main mechanism regulating natural populations, studying the role they play in anteater ecology constitutes an important strategy for conservation of the species. The main goal of the programme is to work towards the conservation of anteaters and develop projects in situ and ex situ.
WAZA Conservation Project 12003 is implemented by Projeto Tamanduá, with support provided by Zoo de la Flèche and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Other stakeholders involved in the project include the University of São Paulo, Federal University of Minas Gerais and Paulista University.
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