Zoo Animals



Myrmecophaga tridactyla

At the Detroit Zoo
A family of female giant anteaters – Chesley, Raya and Bissell – inhabits the American Grasslands. Chesley was born in 1996 and arrived at the Detroit Zoo the following year. She is the most enthusiastic of the group and enjoys being outdoors each morning. She gave birth to a rambunctious Raya in 1999, who has calmed with age. Chesley’s great-granddaughter Bissell, born in 2008, was named after the vacuum cleaner. She is the most laid back of the three.

The giant anteater has a very large, long nose, a tongue that can be up to 2 feet long and very sharp claws. It has very small eyes and ears. Its long, bushy tail can be as long as its body. The giant anteater’s coat is thick and gets longer moving toward its tail. Its hair is mainly brown with distinctive black and white stripes on its shoulders and front legs.


Fun Facts

  • The giant anteater can flick its tongue up to 160 times per minute while eating and can collect 35,000 ants and termites each day.

  • Giant anteaters have no teeth.

  • A giant anteater’s tongue muscles originate from the posterior portion of the breastbone, instead of the throat as in most mammals.