South America Residents

Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)

Distribution: Central and South America from southern Belize and Guatemala to northern Argentina

Habitat: swamps, forests, grasslands

Life History: 6’ – 8’ ft long; 60 – 100lbs.; Median live expectancy: 19.5 years

Diet: Ants, termites, soft- bodied grubs, occasional soft fruit

Conservation status: Vulnerable (IUCN) Population declining

Myrmecophaga tridactyla is locally uncommon to rare. Habitat loss, roadkills, hunting, and wildfires have been substantially affecting the populations over the past 10 years, and there have been many records of population extirpation, especially in Central America and in the southern parts of its range.

Threats in the wild:

Myrmecophaga tridactyla is at risk from habitat loss in parts of its range, and this is a significant threat to Central American populations in particular. Where this species inhabits grassland habitats it is particularly susceptible to fires. In Brazil, burning of sugar cane plantations prior to their harvest leads to the death of significant numbers of giant anteaters due to severe burn injuries. Animals are sometimes killed on roads or by dogs. Giant anteaters are hunted for food throughout their distribution, and are additionally hunted as a pest, for pets or for illegal trade of body material in some parts of their range.

Fast facts:

  • Giant anteater tongues reach 24” in length and can flick in and out of its mouth 150 times a minute! The tongue is only ½” at its widest point.
  • May consume up to 35,000 ants or termites in a single day.

Status in human care:

Currently 99 animals in 54 institutions across

SSP status: Signature

As an SSP species, we are expecting an additional animal that makes a proper breeding companion for her. Giant anteaters are considered sexually mature at 2.5 – 4 years

Generally, a solitary animal but kept successfully in pairs. They have a single offspring (rarely twins) which often can be found riding on the mother’s back. Offspring stay with the mother for about a year, after which male offspring need to be separated. Female offspring can stay with the mother longer.

Gestation is 5- 6 months. Offspring are weaned by 6 months.

Our animal

Chili:                          Born June 15, 2021 at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo (1 year old)

                                    Parent raised

On loan to Miller Park Zoo May 3, 2023

                                    Weight: 100 lbs

Giant anteaters are technically a “prey” species, but few predators will challenge them. Their powerful claws are made to rip apart the sturdiest of ant mounds and can have a devastating effect on another animal when challenged. Jaguars have been seen to steer clear of an anteater defending itself.

Chilean (southern) Pudu (Pudu puda)

Distribution: Southern Chile, southwestern Argentina, Chiloé Island

Habitat: Forest understory; temperate rainforest, deciduous forest

Life History: 2.5 ft long, 14-18 in tall; 11-30 lbs.; Median live expectancy: 7.7 years

Diet: Bark, buds, flowers, nuts, fruit, roots, seeds, stems, twigs, wood, fungus

Conservation status: Near threatened (IUCN) Population declining

Threats in the wild:

Nearly half of the native forests in the region of pudu distribution were lost between 1550 and 2007. Forest lost is often replaced by exotic tree plantations. However, these are considered poor quality habitat.
Dog attacks on Pudu occurs in multiple areas and is a frequent reason for Pudu admission to rescue centers.

Pudu hunting is illegal, but still occurs in some areas for subsistence purposes.

Fast facts:

  • Pudu communicate through vocalizations and scent marking. They have large pre-orbital glands for marking territory
  • Like many deer species, pudu offspring are born with light spots down their back and reach adult size in 2-3 months
  • Males have short, pointed antlers
  • When a threat is detected, pudu run in a zigzag pattern and may nimbly climb rocks or inclined trees
  • Chilean puma is a natural predator in their region, but domestic dogs pose a serious threat

Status in human care:

Currently 28 animals in 13 institutions across

SSP status: Provisional; CITES I appendix

Pudu are generally considered a cryptic, solitary and sedentary species. They also thrive under human care in pairs or small groups

Gestation is ~ 7 months. Fawns weigh less than 2 lbs. at birth. Offspring are weaned by 4-5 months.

Our animal

Puddles:                    Born May 2, 2013 at Queens Zoo, New York (10 years old)

                                  Parent raised

Moved to Toledo Zoo in 2019

On loan to Miller Park Zoo May 3, 2023

                                  Weight: 19 lbs.

Has had 2 offspring in her lifetime.

Chilean pudu are the smallest species of deer. Although most deer species are skittish or shy, Puddles is amazingly calm.

Western Santa Cruz Galapagos Tortoise (Chelonoidis porteri)

Distribution: Southwestern slopes of Santa Cruz Island [formerly Indefatigable Island] in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. 

Habitat: Grassland/pastures

Life History: 4 – 6’ long; 250 – 570lbs. Typical longevity varies wildly from 35 – 135 years, The current oldest living animal is 117 years

Diet: Grasses, flowers, leaves, cactus, fruit, greens

Conservation status: Critically endangered (IUCN) Population increasing. Est. 3400 animals in the wild

The historical population estimate is 35,000 animals for the western Santa Cruz population before the extensive exploitation in the 19th century. Its ongoing recovery remains compromised by the impacts of introduced predators (pigs, black rats, fire ants), invasive vegetation, agricultural land use, barriers to migratory routes, and occasional human-related mortality (consumption, roadkill).

Chelonoidis porteri is protected under Ecuadorian national law. It has been included in Appendix I of CITES since 1975, prohibiting all forms of commercial international trade.

Threats in the wild:

As well as the severe declines suffered as a result of historical overexploitation for consumption by sailors and later settlers, the Chelonoidis porteri population has also been impacted by the effects of introduced vegetation, introduced goats, donkeys and other herbivores competing with it for food and altering vegetation dynamics, and introduced rats, cats, dogs, pigs, and ants preying on its eggs, hatchlings, and juveniles. Much of the upper sector of the species’ current range has been converted to agriculture and pastureland. While pastures may provide tortoises with nutritious forage, human encroachment, particularly where tortoise migration routes are disrupted by fences and roads, remains a cause for concern. As the population expands into new areas, there are more tortoises entering roadways and there have been several instances of tortoises being hit by cars.

Fast facts:

  • Tortoises have no teeth… Their mouth is called their beak and has a powerful bite!
  • Males settle disputes by stretching their necks out… whichever is tallest, wins!
  • The Galapagos tortoise was not named for the Islands. The islands were named for the Galapagos, which is an old Spanish word for tortoise.

Status in human care:

The AZA recognizes 3 species of Galapagos tortoises: Volcan Darwin (Chelonoidis microphyes), western Santa Cruz (C. porter) and Cerro Azul (C. vicina). While all populations are monitored, only C. micropyes is managed currently.

For C. porter, there are currently 42 animals in 7 AZA institutions

SSP status: Studbook only

More work is needed to identify Galapagos tortoises under human care for gene diversity, sexing unknown individuals and confirming any hybridization.

Our animals

Gala and Pagos:      Siblings hatched just 7 days apart on the 11th and the 4th of April, 1992

                                Parent raised

Donated to Miller Park Zoo from Brookfield Zoo after arriving in 1996

                                Weight: 284 and 286 lbs., respectively

Most people think of tortoise as silent creatures, but they have an array of vocalizations using hisses, grunts and groans to make their reactions known.