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Giant Anteater

Myrmecophaga tridactyla


The giant anteater is the largest of the living anteater species and can eat up to 30,000 ants a day!

The giant anteater feeds on ants and termites, catching them with its long sticky tongue which can reach lengths of up to 50cm. Their thick skin and long hairs protect this species from ant bites. They have long claws for opening up termite nests and they walk on their wrists to protect these claws. Giant anteaters are practically blind, finding ants and termites by their impressive sense of smell. Due to the low energy content of their prey, giant anteaters save energy by having very low metabolic rates and body temperatures as low as 33°C.

One of the closest relative to the giant anteater is the pygmy sloth who shared a common ancestor over 55 million years ago!

The giant anteater is considered the most threatened mammal of Central America and is listed on Appendix II of CITES and its range lies in many protected areas. The main threat to this species is habitat loss. As this species inhabits grassland, fires are a major threat, particularly deliberate burning of sugar cane plantations prior to harvest. They are also hunted throughout their range for food or as pests. Their very specific diet, low reproductive rates and large body size combined with the threats to their habitat all contribute to this species decline.

There is currently a reintroduction programme being carried out in Corrientes province in Argentina.

  • Order: Pilosa
  • Family: Myrmecophagidae
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: Up to 2m
  • Weight: Up to 55kg
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species has been recorded from Central America through to Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina, although in its Central American range it is greatly reduced and confined to highland regions.

Habitat and Ecology

Giant anteaters are found in tropical moist forest, dry forest, savannas and open grasslands. They are mostly solitary animals. Females have a gestation period of approximately 170 days and give birth to a single offspring once a year. The offspring is carried on its mothers back for up to six months in line with the white stripe on her back to aid in camouflage.

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

Download the Survival Blueprint for this species below. Each survival blueprint is compiled by an EDGE Fellow working on the species with input from collaborators and stakeholders. The Survival Blueprint provides a status review (information on the distribution, protection status, habitat & ecology, threat and stakeholder analysis) and more information on the action programme listed here.

Vision (30-50 years)

Viable populations of giant anteaters throughout their original distribution.

Goal (5-10 years)

Understand and mitigate the main threats that affect the species persistence in the Brazilian Cerrado.


Develop strategies for landscape conservation and management to maintain viable populations Critical
Reduce vehicle collisions with the species on highways and roads Critical
Decrease the impact of fire on the species High
Expand scientific knowledge about natural history, ecology, health, genetics and conservation of populations in different biomes High
Improve integrated management for conservation (ex situ and in situ), considering the genetic and health viability of the populations Medium
Expand knowledge of the presence and effects of pesticides and heavy metals on the species Medium
Reduce the loss of individuals as a result of poaching Low
Reduce the loss of individuals through socio-cultural and economic conflicts Low

Vinicius Alberici

  • Project name: Road effects on occupancy and population density of giant anteaters in Cerrado
  • Project site: Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil
  • Active: 2018 - 2020
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